HBU: A New Institution
Republished from BrewingTechniques' May/June 1994.

To most home brewers, HBU means the homebrew bittering unit, but in the pen scratchings on my desk-top calendar HBU refers to Home Brew U, and there is nothing bitter about it. Organized by the Merchant du Vin Corporation/Liberty Malt Supply Company and held at The Improv in Seattle, the 12 March event was an indulgence in technical information, gourmet food, excellent beer, and good humor. The attendance (~300) and presentation of the third Home Brew U reflects not only the growing interest in home brewing but also the increasing sophistication and technical aptitude of home brewers.

Dr. Roger Mussche - researcher, lecturer, consultant, and the world's leading expert on Brettanomyces yeast - traveled from Ghent, Belgium, to present, "Where the Wild Yeasts Are!" His talk described the mashing, brewing, and fermentation processes behind lambic and gueuze beer. Many stories circulate about the highly unorthodox methods of Belgian breweries, but none compare to those told by a master practitioner from the heart of unorthodoxy.

Dave Miller - accomplished home brewer, author, brewmaster at the Saint Louis Brewing Company in St. Louis, Missouri, and BrewingTechniques columnist - presented "This Is for You, Bud," which offered "a perspective on contemporary issues in home brewing" through lessons from the Big Boys. Miller's contacts with the pros at large commercial breweries led him to discuss the two primary concerns of large commercial breweries, consistency and stability. Although consistency is less of a concern to home brewers, colloidal stability, microbiological stability, and flavor stability are important issues that home brewers face and must master.

Accomplished home brewer, author, and graphic artist Randy Mosher presented "Dr Bob Technical: How I Learned to Brew Strange Beers." Mosher not only compiled a glossary of herbs and spices that can be used in brewing, he brought sample "potions," liquid extracts or tinctures that contained the essences of each. Small cups of strange aromas were passed from table to table while Mosher explained each one. He also presented a short review of some unusual beers including Gruit Ale, Heather Ale, Bragot, and Mumme.

Author, home brewer, and brewing educator extraodinaire Byron Burch presented "Brewers? Making Mead?" in which he outlined the similarities and differences between the beer brewing and mead making processes. Burch sees much in common between the two activities and much that each camp can learn from each other. Thanks to his presence and influence, many more people will make and be exposed to fine meads.

Two panel discussions rounded out the program. The "Beer Geek Heaven" panel featured Dr. Roger Mussche, Ed Tringali (formerly brewmaster at Big Time Brewing Co.), Rande Reed (Thomas Kemper Brewing Co.), and Fal Allen (Pike Place Brewery) answering a wide range of questions from the audience. Merchant du Vin's Charles Finkel moderated a panel with chefs Tina Peel and Melissa Flynn called "From Velveeta to Vlezenbeek," which discussed various aspects of food and beer, including the development and preparation of the event's menu.

Last but not least was the beer - an incredible selection of the world's finest, including Samuel Smith's The Famous Taddy Porter, MacAndrew's Scotch Ale, Traquair House Ale, Lindemans' Framboise Lambic, Pinkus Original Organic Weizen Beer, Ayinger Ur-Weisse, Pike Place Pale Ale, Pike Place XXXXX Stout, Pike Place Old Bawdy Barley Wine, and Brasseurs Biere de Paris, with a special limited tasting of Cuvee Rene.

Home Brew U reflected the quality and dedication to detail characteristic of the craft brewing scene in general. It was evident that many people - especially Ian McAllister and Susan Yates - worked hard to make such an event happen so smoothly and seamlessly. No one, however, deserves more credit than Charles Finkel, whose vision and energy are the inspiration of Home Brew U.

If you are planning to be in the Seattle area next spring, plan your trip for mid-march and find out why Michael Jackson calls it the best city in America in which to drink beer.

-Stephen Mallery
Illustrations by Alan Moen

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