One of the great things about working at CMBC is that we’ve got a number of homebrewers around this place. From the Beertenders to the brewers, odds are that, at any given time, someone currently working has something fermenting at home.
So, when we decided to begin holding internal homebrew contests last year, it was no surprise that we had entrants from numerous departments throughout the brewery.
We’ve had four of these contests — the past three winners have been two brewers and a Beertender (who’s also won numerous awards as a homebrewer).
For the contest that produced this weekend’s release, Refresh-zing — a Belgian Saison with cayenne, turmeric, ginger, and coriander — we were thrilled to see a member of the Events team come through with the win. Jenna Tesauro — Associate Director of Academic Affairs and Advising at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania by day, events rockstar by night — came through with the winning recipe this time around, and the beer blew us all away.
“I really liked it,” says Innovation Director Brian Hink. “I thought it was super unique and really stood out amongst the crowd. I’m not always a huge fan of spicy beers, but Jenna did a great job balancing everything and creating a really interesting offering.”
Jenna’s not exactly a newcomer when it comes to homebrewing, having started the hobby about three years ago — approximately the time she started at CMBC. With her twin sister Danielle and her friend Evan, they’ve set up a bit of a homebrewing collective, taking turns putting together recipes.
“Evan had been brewing and invited me to join as I was looking to learn more about beer generally,” she tells us. “I learned a lot from working events, but I learned a lot more from actually brewing with him. My sister joined the team, too, as head of the mash paddle.”
While a lot of participants in our homebrew contests are in it to win it, Jenna honestly approaches each one as a chance to grow as a homebrewer.
“I entered the Orange Crush competition in July of last year with a beer that oxidized and didn’t have time to carbonate fully,” she recalls. “After tasting everyone else’s, I also realized I should have drunk a few orange crushes myself to get a clearer target. It was a great opportunity to calibrate an approach for this next contest though, which seems to have been more on target.”
Each of our homebrew contests has a theme — IPAs, something to mimic an Orange Crush, etc. This time around, the directions were to produce something “Belgian-inspired.” As the saison is one of Jenna’s favorite styles, she was immediately on board.
“I was excited this homebrew contest had a saison-slash-Belgian theme because I added a pretty classic saison recipe in our homebrew schedule that I thought turned out pretty well,” she says. “It was crisp with spicy notes and a little lemony fruitiness.”
That recipe began with Saaz hops — Jenna likes the lighter, spicy notes in a saison to balance with the earthy tones. And she was smart enough to ignore the advice of the guy at her local homebrew shop to use French saison yeast.
“The Belgian saison yeast was intentional,” she says. “I wanted to build on that spiciness but add that tart, fruity flavor it can get from fermentation, even though using it meant signing up for slow fermentation.”
With cayenne, turmeric, ginger, and coriander, Jenna says that the spices simply punch the beer up a bit.
“The spices build on the general fruity, peppery nature, with the pungent earthiness from the turmeric and ginger and the bit of tingle from the cayenne,” she says. “You get the classic saison notes when you first sip, and the spices sneak in and linger on the end, adding the zing in Refresh-zing.”
She’d been using turmeric in cooking and thought it would be a nice adjunct for her saison, in terms of both flavor and color, even though she’d never used either turmeric or cayenne in brewing.
“It reminded me of the health drinks that include cayenne and ginger with lemon and turmeric,” she says.
The trend in “healthy drinking” is all the rage, and we’re not surprised to see Jenna embracing wholeheartedly.
“It was awesome to taste the first sample once it finished and feel like each spice was well-represented but balanced,” she tells us. “I will say I didn’t think about how the turmeric would dye some of the equipment, which was a fun lesson.”
Everyone is pretty psyched at how this beer came out, and it was evident that it was going to be at the top of the rankings during the homebrew competition — the judges were raving about how delicious it was.
“Of the nine entries, Packaging Operator Sean McGuirl‘s blueberry jalapeño Saison and Jenna’s cayenne, turmeric, ginger, and coriander both stood out as the most unique offerings,” Brian says. “Not surprisingly, those were one and two in the final rankings by a wide margin.”
Jenna’s excited that people like her beer.
“I like sharing and talking about beer,” she says. “It adds a layer of fun when a beer you made and personally enjoy gets a positive response.”
Refresh-zing is a little out-of-the-box for us — we don’t usually package our spicier, peppery offerings.
“It’s got a firm heat component to it,” Brian says. “It’s cool because that’s something we’ve played around with a bunch on Wednesday One-Offs but not on a scaled batch at all. The finish is definitely peppery and zesty, while still firmly being a Saison. I really like how it came out.”
When it comes down to things, Jenna feels that she’s lucky to get the chance to have her brews evaluated by the rest of the team.
“I truly appreciate that everyone at CMBC is part of the Brew Crew and that an Events Team Member can come up with a beer and see it put into production,” she says.
She’s also appreciated the glimpse into what goes on behind-the-scenes in the production of a beer.
“It’s been fun getting more insight into how Brian and the rest of the production team translate ideas into large-scale brews, how marketing selects names, etc,” she says. “I started homebrewing to learn more about making beer, and this really took it to another level.”
Refresh-zing will be available this Saturday, June 1, at noon in the Brewtique.
“It’ll be a lot easier to share with friends and family in those awesome four-packs,” Jenna says. “They travel a little better than a keg.”
See you then!