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5 favorite beers from when I was brewing a lot

by Rob Friesel

As I continue to wax nostalgic for the days when I was brewing “a lot” (oh say… twice a month?) — the thought occurred to me to reflect on the beers that became my favorites. The ones I was most proud of, or else became in some way obsessed with. There were certainly quite a few that were “very good” (even “excellent”) but these were the ones I couldn’t get out of my head.

Me, wearing flip-flops and a Zero Gravity hoodie, while I brew my Uncle Rico cream ale.

1. Tilde Festbier

Tilde Festbier

My Festbier. The one that went on to earn a 38 in the first round of National Homebrew Competition (though it didn’t advance). The one that became the foundational recipe for Feats of Strength at Black Flannel. I only brewed it once as a homebrewer, but think it’s rare to get a beer so right on the first attempt.

2. Honestatis

Honestatis (Mk. IX)

My signature beer. I brewed it at least 9 times in 4 years. I’ve always been a sucker for a well-made amber ale — even as they’ve fallen out of favor with craft brewers. And I remember when I was first cutting my teeth at homebrewing and thinking what if I made a SMOKY amber ale? …with rye? While it wasn’t exactly a kitchen sink moment of homebrew hubris, I really did believe that I could bring all those elements together into a great beer. Seven batches later and it earned a 42 at NHC first round. And that ninth batch was a nearly unanimous winner of a style challenge “duel” among the North Seattle Homebrewers.

3. Tilde Galaxy

Tilde Galaxy (Mk. II) -- first pours

In my early homebrewing days, I made a deliberate attempt to stay away from brewing IPAs. I live in Vermont — I have access to some of the best IPAs in the world so why would I want to compete with that? …if not for the challenge of just seeing how I could stack up. My first IPA came out of a kit, but I learned enough that I thought I could make an at least decent one on my own. Especially if you just throw a ton of cheater hops like Galaxy at it. So that’s exactly what I did … and then it earned me my first ribbon. (The second batch didn’t score as well as the first, but I still maintain it was better overall.)

4. Le Rousse

Ambrée Bière de Garde

This beer could so easily have been a case of over-reaching — could so easily have been a hot mess. Seriously: how many bières de garde do you see in the States? (And when you do see them… isn’t the name being used as a cover story for a barrel-aged something-or-other that got infected?) While I wouldn’t go so far as to say “I had no right to attempt this beer”, I certainly did not have any reliable yardstick by which to measure it. But it turned out delicious, and then scored well enough in competition that it got picked up by a local brewery for a pilot batch.

5. Avout

Avout (first pour)

I continue to obsess over the idea of this beer, even as previous iterations have been good although only questionably what I had in mind. I had been making small talk and banter with a friend about different recipes to brew when he floated the idea of a “Belgian RED Strong”. This stuck with me and I proceeded to spend nearly 2 years trying to work out a recipe before I finally just said “fuck it” and went for it. I missed my gravity, but I got the color in the ballpark (albeit a little darker than I’d hoped). I enjoyed its aromas and flavors but… it felt like I’d missed the mark. This was pretty much where I landed both times I brewed it: this is good and sooooooo close but… not quite.

Bonus: Uncle Rico

Uncle Rico

Uncle Rico is a cream ale. It had simple ingredients and an equally simple brew day. I wish I’d taken more pictures of it after the one above because it cleared so well and was gone so fast. Every brewer needs a beer like — something unfussy and delicious.

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day. Science fiction writer by night. Weekend homebrewer, beer educator at Black Flannel, and Certified Cicerone. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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