October 1, 2016

The Bayou hosts the Olympics of Utah home brewing

In the battle of the suds in Salt Lake City, only one brew could reign supreme. This year’s king of local beer was Ray Madsen from Heber who took the Best in Show prize with his smoked porter.

Hosted at The Bayou, the 2010 Beehive Brew Off was a hit with over 364 different entries. Contestants submitted three unmarked bottles anonymously, which were evaluated by 30 beer judges from around the region.

bayou beer festival

The judges at the Bayou evaluate the line-up of contestants.

“There were a handful of really good beers,” says John Lee, the head brewer for the Wasatch/Squatters Beer Cooperative. “Some. . . were not so good.”

Brewing craft beer is both an art and a science—one with lots of trial and error. He says that it takes a tremendous commitment for a home brewer to reach professional level. “For example, as a professional brewer, I make about 6,000 batches per year.”

Mike Riedel was one of this year’s judges. He also runs the Utah Beer Blog. Riedel says he was most impressed by the beers that didn’t fit into any category. One of the specialty beer’s he sampled was made with grapes and was flavored with saffron. “It was unlike anything I have ever tasted,” he says. “If it were available at the store, I would go out and buy it.”

Greg Updike, aspiring professional brewer

Greg Updike, aspiring professional brewer

Greg Updike was also a judge for the competition. He is the founder of Ogden’s homebrewers club, “The O-Town Hopheads.” The group meets on a monthly basis, each time featuring a different style of beer that all the members homebrew. They have 55 members, and each participant pays $2 per month. They gather to critique and evaluate each others’ beers and determine a monthly winner, who is awarded $50.

“I started brewing big when I came out here,” Updike says. “Before the changes in the law, I was all about being a rebel,” Haun later added, “Every club has its own purpose or agenda. Some clubs are very attuned to the national styles. My club charter doesn’t really care about the national attention. We are all still doing it for fun.”

Updike says he has been wanting to become a professional brew master since he made his first batch 20 years ago. He says that he doesn’t want to work his way up in an established brewery but is planning to some day start his own.

“When you work for a brewery, you might spend 5 years doing all the janitorial work. I have a passion to start my own. I’m brewing beer like crazy, I give it away all the time, and I’m always looking for feedback on the beers I brew.”

In the meantime,  Greg Updike will have to settle for his day job: he’s a rocket engineer at ATK Thiokol.

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We apologize for a bit of confusion with the names in the print version of this article.  Mike Hahn is a senior member of the ZZ Hopshomebrewers club in Salt Lake City.