This spring I was with my girlfriend, Kayla, and her family at their home in Ontario when I received an email that the results of the CAMRA Victoria Amateur Brewing Competition had been posted . I quickly checked the website on my phone, and scrolled through the list of winners, only to find my name. I was elated to learn that my beer, a cross between an IPA and red ale that I called India Red Ale, had won first place in the American Ales category.
I’ve been a home brewer for more than eight years, but this was only the third competition I had entered, thanks to encouragement from friends in the local homebrew club, BrewVic. I had received decent scores in the past, but had none had been high enough to place. Winning my category in the CAMRA competition was a thrill, especially because it was local and many of the entries came from my friends and peers.
Soon after I found out I won, I received an email from the competition co-ordinator, who congratulated me on my winning beer and informed me that as a category winner, I was invited to submit another bottle of my beer for judging by Phillips Brewing Company. I dug deep into the back of my home brewing closet and found the last two bottles with “IRA” on the cap. One went straight into the fridge and the other was delivered to the judging.
At this point, I was more than satisfied winning my category in the competition. There were 13 other first place winners the Phillips tasted, and I was dismissive about my chances of winning. To my surprise, about a month later I checked my email and saw a message from none other than Matt Phillips, congratulating me on my beer! This was one of proudest moments for me in recent memory, and I had to bite my tongue in a phone interview with the Tartan Group when I was asked about my greatest accomplishment.
Even though I had just started as the accounting and administrative coordinator at the Tartan Group, they were kind enough to allow me to sneak out early to join the crew at Phillips for the brew day. It was a wonderful opportunity and I had a lot of fun, they have a great facility, and we sampled plenty of beer throughout the afternoon.
Two weeks later was bottling day, and I snuck out for a long lunch to sample my beer for the first time and see bottles come off the line with my name one them! Matt grabbed bottle number one off the line for me to save, and sent me home with a few cases. We agreed that the beer was pretty close to the original, on the lighter end of amber, with a big, citrusy hop punch balanced by a bit of caramel and toffee malt.
Thanks to everyone involved all the volunteers at CAMRA, Matt Phillips and his staff, my co-workers at Tartan and my wonderfully supportive girlfriend, Kayla. Look for the beer at your local private liquor stores on Vancouver Island and in Vancouver as well!
Eric Jourdan is the accounting and administrative coordinator with the Tartan Group, a public relations company in Victoria, BC.