In his nearly five years in the Bay Area Dwight Mulcahy discovered homebrewing, entered dozens of brewing competitions and brought home quite a few ribbons for his collection. In December, however, this “intensely competitive” homebrewer left the Bay for San Antonio, Texas. Now, nearly 6 months away from the place where he learned to love brewing and competing, Mulcahy talked to BACB about the Bay Area homebrew community, competitions and how he’s come to further appreciate the Bay Area beer scene after being away.
How long have you been brewing?
I’ve been brewing for 6 years now thankfully most of it in the Bay Area so I learned a lot. I find myself brewing about every 2 weeks now. I give away more beer then I drink!
What is the benefit for a homebrewer to compete?
Several. If you are new to homebrewing it gives you an idea of how well you are able to brew the style in question. If you are a seasoned homebrewer it gives you a measurement against your fellow peers, especially in the Bay Area. The level of competition in the Bay Area is world class.
Why do you compete?
In the beginning I had challenged myself to create and design recipes that would win medals. It has also been great to get the kudos from some of the county’s top BJCP Master level judges. I originally started because my club was having a “HomeBrewer of the Year” competition, which I won. I’m increadibly competitive, and it has since become an addiction.
Could you say a little about the culture of craft beer and homebrewing in the area?
The amount of world-class craft beer available in the Bay Area is only topped by a couple of areas in the country. The availability of craft beer from Russian River, Moylan’s, Firehouse, Anchor, and many more help drive the creativity of homebrewing in the Bay Area.
The level of competitors in the Bay Area is unheard of: Jamil, Tasty McDole, Mike Riddle, Nathan Smith, Aryln Jones, etc. You have to bring out your best to get any ribbons against these guys. Although the level of competition is fierce, the respect, sharing and help any competitor will anyone is one of the driving forces in giving more people “the competition bug.”
What is one of your favorite homebrewing competitions in the area?
World Cup is fun because it is one of the first competitions of the year, and everyone comes out beers a blazing! They have a party over at Trumer Pils after the judging with food and music on site. They announce the awards there and give out a lot of swag for the winners. It’s a great way to spend a day with your homebrew friends.
The CA State Competition is also close to my heart. The competition is tough here since this is one of the last comps of the year and everyone has fine-tuned their beers. The final judging is done at Stern Grove in San Francisco, so again the best of the best get together to party, talk beer and congratulate the winners. They also give mugs if you get a first in your category. I love all the ones I have.
What’s one of the most useful things you’ve learned about brewing from going to competitions?
How to make better beer. Not from the competitions itself, but from discussing with my competitors on how to brew better beer. I would typically get in touch with winners of the styles that I’m interested in and discuss how they did it. More often then not they would be forthcoming with suggestions on what they believe helped them win. I mean really, as a homebrewer all we really want to do is talk about beer while drinking a well-made beer.
How does San Antonio’s beer scene compare to the Bay Area?
In San Antonio there are only three breweries/brewpubs within city limits: Blue Star, Ranger Creek and FreeTail.
Blue Star has been around since 1996.
Ranger Creek is the only Brewery in San Antonio, but they are doing some exciting things. They also are doing distilling on site.
FreeTail has recently opened in the past two years, and their flavor and charm comes from their Head Brewer Jason Davis. He worked as a brewer for Celis till they closed. You can see the influence in the experimental beers they brew.
Also, there are only two BJCP certified judges here in San Antonio (you read that right). Luckily when an event needs judging there are some more in Austin and Houston area but they still typically only have one BJCP judge per table, it makes for interesting score sheets.
There are only about eight competitions during the year it doesn’t give you the same level of competition. I have only personally entered four competitions this year, at this point last year I was probably at about 10-12.
How do you handle the big change?
Lucky for me, the Bay Area’s beers are just one shipment away (don’t tell!).