Written by Maria Devan for Professor Goodales
The SJPorr challenge is the hottest ticket in home brewing right now. Several years ago some home brewers from youtube created the SJPorr Experiment. It was meant to be an educational and fun way to discover the attributes of different ingredients with everyone brewing the same basic beer only with slight variations. Then they would trade beers and compare. The challenge has evolved over the years and this year they have the biggest participation ever and on an international scale. I spoke with a terrific home brewer and youtuber Brad Alford about what it’s like to be a home brewer and to be involved in this years SJPorr challenge.
Brad got his start brewing because his wife Amy asked him what he wanted for his birthday. He figured that since he was a foodie and liked to cook, maybe he might like to brew beer too. He got a starter kit from Cooper’s Microbrewery and before he even got his feel wet he began to innovate and experiment.
On his very first few kit batches he was adding things like honey, chocolate and fruit. Soon he was cultivating his own yeast starters. Once he began to add fresh grains that was it. He went to all grain and has never looked back. He named his brewery Wild Boys Brewery after the family Pekingese who would run around wild expending pent up energy. The name stuck. His philosophy is a good match for the name and it was a simple one, “Don’t brew to style.” He said; “why would I want to stay inside the box?” Innovation seemed to come naturally for Brad who made his own mash tun form a picnic cooler, has made his own stir plate for yeast starters and he seems to be right at home with all the record keeping and scientific method that goes into brewing. He does his own kegging, bottling, sanitizing and cleanup. Then he started youtubing. He does a great series called Home Brew Wednesdays as that seems to be the traditional day for home brewing started by the original SJPorr videos.
For this years challenge the home brewers were told ‘brew your best beer” and no limits were set as to the style. Brad is brewing a Red IPA from a recipe that he invented. He decided on the beer because he looked back over this past year and decided on his favorite beer that he he had made. He took his favorite combination of hops- Simcoe, Amarillo, Mosaic and Citra, and is using a combination of English and Canadian pale ale two row malts. Since all the entrants were already registered he shared a bit of his recipe with me. His total grain bill was 13 pounds 9 ounces and includes Otter Maris, 2 row malt, crystal 40, Crystal 65 for the red color and roasted barley also for color, and finally Cara Pils for head retention.
Red IPA is not a recognized style in the BJCP so his beer would fall under the category of specialty beer. He using a variety of hopping techniques including first wort hopping, continuously hopping every 10 minutes until the flameout, and dry hopping for one week during fermentation. From the flavor he expects to produce a west coast style IPA with a rich caramel backbone to offset bitterness and he calls the beer a tropical fruit bomb. For yeast he is using 156 Wyeast an American Ale One strain. He said last time he made this beer it was so delicious he drank it all up. His inspirations for the beer were Green Flash Hop Head Red, Maine Beer Zoe and Terrapin Big Hoppy Monster.
I heard Brad talk about his sense of commitment to the community that taught him and that has nurtured his love for home brewing as a brotherhood. About brewing he said “I did it and I liked it.” He would certainly be pleased to win the competition as this years field is an international one and the bragging rights would would be best beer in the home brew community in 2014. Right now his beer is in primary. When it’s done he will send it to one of four regional hubs in the united states. Then those beers will all be sent out to all the participants who will ultimately review and rate each one. The winners will be regional, then national then international for the title.
The name of Brad’s beer is H.A.R.A and that stands for Hoppy American Red Ale. It will be 6% ABV with 174 IBUS. Good luck Brad and to all the participants in this years challenge.
Maria Devan lives in Ithaca, NY and is frequent reviewer of beer and a beer lover deluxe.