Since New Year's is almost upon us, let's talk homebrew! When it comes to the craft of brewing beer, Kevin Kearney of Calmar has made a science of it. South Winneshiek high school science teacher and coach has been perfecting the natural science and engineering of his craft for years and has won awards for his efforts, besides having some great tasting ale to serve his friends.
About twenty years ago, one of his best friends from high school and college got into brewing and it wasn’t long before Kevin decided to brew himself. Just within the last couple years, Kevin has decided to take his brewing to the next level and enter in competitions and he is in a close race for the prestigious Midwest Homebrewer of the year award and will know any day now.
His recently shared highlight updates of his achievements :
National Homebrew Competition: “There are eleven regional competitions, with the top three in each category advancing to the final competition. I had an American Brown Ale advance to the national competition. It did not place top three, but advanced to the 'mini-best of show,' in the American Ale category. There were approximately 750 total entries in the American Ale Category.”
Master's Championship of Amateur Brewing: “There are sixteen qualifying competitions across the United States in 2013. In order to qualify a beer for MCAB it must win its category in one of the qualifying competitions. I had six beers qualify (by finishing first) in four different categories-- Light Lager, Pilsener, English Pale Ale, English Brown Ale. The Final event (for 2013 qualifiers) is held in March of 2014.”
Midwest Homebrewer of the Year Circuit: “They should be finalizing 2013 results in the next few days. All competitions are complete, but they need to incorporate one more set of results. Currently, I am in third place overall. Three of the people in front of me have not met all qualifications (you have to enter four different competitions for example). Basically, consists of fifteen competitions in 2013, and all brewers who enter them from thireen different Midwestern states. Points awarded for placing top three and overall winning percentage."
Kevin’s interests drew him into the hobby, “I had always been interested in trying different beers and this was a way to learn about them, and make them. It is a hobby that appeals to a lot of my interests: cooking, reading, history, and, the entire process is sort of science in action - there is a great deal of biology and chemistry involved throughout, so that is something I find very interesting. The more I learned, the more I brewed, the more I got hooked on it.”
"Even though I have brewed for over fifteen years, I really only started entering competitions the last couple of years . The main motivation for entering the competitions was to get unbiased feedback on my beer from qualified beer judges. Beers are scored against style guidelines in various categories. It is a great way to find out if there are any flaws in a beer and what areas need to be improved. The score sheets are valuable in assessing the beers I brew and changes I might want to make in the recipes in the future,” says the Brewmeister, who has won many contests over the last two years.
In case you are not a connoisseur of fine beer, there are about thirty different malt types, from pale pilsner malt to almost black roasted barley and more than a hundred hop varieties from around the world. There are different yeast strains for every thinkable beer style, for example: bottom-fermenting lager yeast, fruity Bavarian wheat beer yeast, or stout yeast for smooth, heartwarming classic ale.
Kevin is a big fan of German lagers (Oktoberfest, Pilsner, Helles), but, if he had to pick one, it would be an American Amber Ale. “That is probably my personal favorite,” Kevin decided after giving it some thought.
Future plans? “This is just a hobby. You cannot sell ‘homebrew.’ In order to sell it, you would actually need to do all the licensing and paperwork to become an official brewery, and that is an overwhelming process. Opening a brewery would probably make a terrible ‘retirement’ job, as you would be working eighty hours a week. I don't know that there are many jobs out there that require the time and effort that running a brewery would require. Anyone who brews entertains the thought of it, but it is incredibly hard and the ‘brewing’ part of it is a minimal part of the job--Cleaning, sanitizing, marketing, and paperwork would be the majority of the job. I am pretty content to brew as a hobby, brewing for myself and just giving it away to friends.”
We congratulate Kevin on his many “homebrew” awards and here’s hoping he garners the years end Championship of beer contests. Cheers! Happy New Year!