Last weekend I joined my fellow members of the Airship Archon for some revelry and ribaldry at the Steampunk Empire Symposium down in Cincinnati. For those who aren’t from the area, the Symposium is a burgeoning Steampunk con run by Aloyisius Fox and the wonderful League of Cincinnati Steampunks. Like the previous year’s con, this year’s event was fantastic.
On Saturday, I, along with Airship Archon’s Torrie Tesla, hosted our “Victorian Inebriation” panel. We covered some of the history of beer and wine during the Victorian Era, and then talked about how to make your own. I’ve done this talk a few times now. No two panels have been the same, as I seem to forget or mess up different key points each time. Still, I had fun, and it was hopefully entertaining and informative to the few folks who showed up.
Afterwards, I competed in the Steampunk Empire Symposium’s Home Brew Competition. I entered a black IPA I’ve been perfecting over the past year. I call it “Bagheera”, after the black panther in Kipling’s The Jungle Book. What I love about black IPAs is that they are nicely balanced beers. The bitterness of the hops is kept in check by the roasted notes of the darker grains. The end result is a very smooth session beer with a pleasant floral nose. But I digress.
So, I entered three-gallons of my Bagheera into the contest. Wait. I forgot to mention that I have a wooden barrel, backpack rig that I use to carry my keg around at conventions. When fully loaded with beer, it is quite heavy. But a short, stocky man wearing a kilt and lugging around a big-ass barrel on his back seems to be entertaining. The suffering I do for my art. Again, I digress.
The brews were to be judged on three categories: Best Presentation, Attendee’s Choice, and Brewer’s Choice. Much to my surprise, I won two of the categories- Attendee’s Choice and Best Presentation (I told you the barrel thing was entertaining). By taking two of the three awards, I was told I won the competition!
Hmm, what? How many beers were in the competition? Uh, if I’m honest, er, three. With just two home brewing teams. The other team was a lovely couple from the northern side of Detroit. I don’t recall their names or what airship they represented. However, their beers were really good. They entered a not-quite-imperial-imperial red ale, and a black IPA.
When I heard they had also brought I black IPA, I was a bit worried. Three beers and two of them are black IPAs? “What are the freakin’ odds?”, I thought. However, our black IPAs couldn’t have been more different. With mine, the taste of the hops follows through the entire sip. With theirs, the hops smacked you in the face up front, like Bruce Willis punching you in the face, “You feel that sting, big boy?”. Mind you that’s not a ding against it, in my opinion. I love hoppy beers.
After tasting their beers, I fully expected the red ale to take the competition. Hell, I voted for it. One of the judges was a professional brewer from Gordon Biersch. I don’t remember his name, either. He said some incredibly kind things about my beer. However, in the end, he gave the Brewer’s Choice award to the red ale. A much deserved award for the other team. Kudos to them!
Next year’s theme for the Steampunk Empire Symposium is Steampunk Star Wars. I’ve been told that the brewing competition will be a part of it. As the returning champion, I will need to up my game. What should I brew? Something “Imperial” seems appropriate. *cue John Williams’s “Imperial March”*