A year and a half ago my brother,Steve and I entered our first homebrew competition, the 2007 Cascade Brewer’s Cup. I had been listening to the BN for about six months, and finally took to heart Jamil’s repeated recommendation that submitting beer to competitions was the only way to obtain true, impartial, constructive criticism. We submitted three beers; a blonde ale, a rye pale ale (RPA) and as an afterthought, our American IPA (AIPA).  To our surprise, the RPA place third in the specialty beer category and the AIPA won the IPA category. The AIPA went on to place 3rd in the BOS round, but that was not the most shocking development.  It just so happened that the mini festival (Cascade Brewer’s Guild Exbeerience), where the results of the competition were released, was sponsored in part by Anuheuser-Busch (A-B). A-B also decided to sponsor the Best-to-Brew category with the kicker being that the beer would be brewed in St. Louis at the Michelob Research Pilot Brewery.  As you can guess we were floored when our beer was chosen as the Best-to-Brew. We recently completed our trip, so I thought I’d share our three day, two night experience with the BN Army.

The accommodations were excellent; exit rows on the flights, towncar transportation from the airport and a nice hotel near the Arch/Riverfront area of town. The night we arrived we met up with Nathaniel Davis, the Brewmaster of the Michelob Research Pilot Brewery (RPB), for dinner and beers at a pub near the A-B headquarters: Bells Two-Hearted and Kostritzer Black Lager on tap, all on A-B.  He went over what we would be doing the next day and gave us an update on how things like yeast propagation were progressing.

Mike in front of boil kettleThe next morning we met up at the RPB at 6:30 AM and got a quick tour of the seven story facility.  We were met by a two person film crew, and were set up with microphones.  They took video (and audio) of most of the brew day and A-B also had a professional photographer come in and take some pictures.  At 7:00 AM we mashed in the grains (828 lbs) for our American IPA.  Most of the brewing is controlled by a double screen control panel, so there was very little hands on work for us.  They let us switch any necessary manual valves and dump the hops into the boil kettle.  We followed and tasted the wort/beer as it made its way through the brewery.  They have a mash tun to lauter tun to brew kettle to whirlpool setup.  We hit our gravity target numbers almost perfectly, and the brew day went smooth, and was mostly complete by 12:30 PM.  In the midst of brewing we got to tour the lab, and learned how to count yeast cells.

After that we ate a quick lunch and downed a couple of A-B products, and then met up with Jane Killebrew-Galeski, Brewmaster and Director of New Product Development.  She gave us an hour and a half personalized tour of the main A-B brewery.  During the tour the wort was transferred to the fermenter, and the yeast was pitched.

Batch #472

 

We met back up with Nathaniel and did a final wort tasting.  This evolved into a Michelob/RPB panel tasting.  He pulled out about 15 beers to taste, some soon to be on the market, others still in the experimental stage.  Examples were: Czech Pilsner, Wit, Irish Red, Dunkel Weisse and Imperial IPA.  All were excellent.

 

The last thing we did was have a celebratory beer in the official A-B "3:00" tasting room.  It had leather chairs, a big board room table and two tap handles (Bud & Bud Light) in the corner.  Nathaniel pulled out one more beer from a walkin cooler nearby that he wanted us to try (Helles Bock) and we finally ended the day with a glass of Budweiser pulled from the fancy corner tap.

They gave us a ton of Michelob and A-B gear to a take home as well.  My daughters really liked the stuffed dalmation and clydesdale.

We spent Saturday, hanging out in the Riverfront district of St. Louis, enjoying all that it had to offer.

All in all this was one of the best experiences we’ve had as brewers.  As my brother put it, he could not remember a better day in recent memory.

Michael Brown is an avid homebrewer and member of the BNARMY and his local homebrew club, the Cascade Brewer's Guild.