By Jon Abernathy

For The Bulletin

What: Deschutes Brewery Hazmat Munich Dunkel release

When: 5-7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Deschutes Brewery Public House, 1044 NW Bond Street, Bend

Cost: Free admission

Contact: deschutesbrewery.com

Thursday evening, Deschutes Brewery is hosting a release party for a specialty beer that was sent to this year’s Great American Beer Festival. Hazmat Munich Dunkel, a German-style lager, stands out among its other GABF entries because Deschutes entered it in the Pro-Am competition, a special category in which commercial breweries team up with homebrewers to brew and submit homebrew recipes.

According to GABF rules, Pro-Am entries must be based on a homebrew recipe that has won an award in a competition officially sanctioned by the American Homebrewers Association. As it happens, the Bend-based Central Oregon Homebrewers Organization (COHO) hosts such a competition each year, the Spring Fling. (Editor’s note: Abernathy is president of COHO and an active member.)

At this year’s Spring Fling, COHO member Joe Mikus won first place in the Dark European Lager category with his Hazmat Munich Dunkel. Deschutes’ Assistant Brewmaster Robin Johnson contacted Mikus to brew his winning beer at the Bend pub.

“I reached out to COHO and was recommended Joe as someone that was vastly experienced, a consistent first-place winner and a really great guy,” Johnson said. “From there I met with Joe, and he had two first place winning recipes and had samples of both, so he met me here at the pub. We tried the beer and looked over the recipes, and then decided that the Dunkel was the way to go.”

Mikus has been brewing his lager recipe for at least five years and won his first award for it in 2014. The style, not one often seen commercially, can be considered a German lager version of a brown ale, with rich, bready, nutty malt complexity. I’ve tasted Mikus’ beer and found the rich maltiness and clean finish as promised.

The beer is the first Pro-Am entry Deschutes has sent to GABF in quite a while — if ever. “I’ve been with Deschutes for seven years now and I can’t remember that we’ve done one in that time,” said Johnson. “I’d love to make this an annual event though. It’s been a really fun experience and a great way to reconnect with COHO and the members.”

“Having the opportunity to brew on a commercial ten barrel system was really great,” Mikus said. “Brewing 320 gallons in less time than it takes me to brew ten gallons at home was impressive, and seeing and working with a professionally designed system was a memorable treat!”

Deschutes isn’t the only brewery teaming with homebrewers. Silver Moon Brewing has hosted an annual homebrew competition for several years in a row, with a grand prize of brewing the winning recipe on their 10-barrel pub system.

Earlier this year, Bend Brewing Co. hosted a similar competition, additionally donating some proceeds from sales of the winning beer to COHO. The winning beer, Sunset Amber Ale, was the creation of Tim Koester, another COHO member. Koester brewed the beer with Bend Brewing’s head brewer Josh Harned in June, and it went on tap in July.

More recently, Three Creeks Brewing Company in Sisters released Nasty Woman IPA, a collaboration with homebrewer Nancy Noll. Noll’s beer won the People’s Choice award as well as the Three Creeks Award at the inaugural Sisters Homebrew Festival in June, earning the opportunity to be brewed at Three Creeks.

Noll, a longtime resident of both Humboldt County, California, and Sunriver, began homebrewing in 2013, and has been refining the recipe for her Nasty Woman IPA for over a year. Ordinarily she doesn’t enter her beer in competitions, but in an interview with Three Creeks posted online, she said, “They needed home brewers, and that’s why I entered. I’m not interested in entering competitions, but I am into nonprofits. I believe in giving back.”

Brewer Pat Shea worked with Noll on brew day.

“It was a great time, for her and me, brewing that,” Shea said. He was also involved with choosing her beer as the winner at the festival. “Wade, the owner, and myself judged her as our pick out of all the best at the Homebrew Festival. We tried hers a few times to make sure that was the one we wanted to pick.”

Scaling up a typical 5-gallon homebrew recipe to 320 gallons (10 barrels) can seem daunting, but often is straightforward.

“We’ve worked with homebrewers in the past, and I basically look at their recipe and scale up the grain bill using percentages and then make some small tweaks based on knowing how our system performs,” said Zach Beckwith, Three Creeks’ head brewer. “I was able to look at Nancy’s recipe and based on quantities we use in some of our other IPAs was able to come up with a hop schedule that mirrored hers time wise but with quantities we use.”

In the case of Deschutes and Mikus’ lager, Johnson said, “It wasn’t too hard scaling up the recipe. Joe’s recipe and notes were very clear, so it was just a matter of matching up the malt and hops as closely as possible to the materials we had access to. Changes were very minor.”

Taste for yourself at the Deschutes pub on Thursday, and to find out more about homebrewing, the COHO website at cohomebrewers.org has information about upcoming meetings, competitions and more.

— Jon Abernathy is a Bend beer blogger and brew aficionado. His column appears every other week in GO!

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