Interview with our 1st Pro-am winner

Interview with CSB’s 1st Ever ProAm Winner


The CSB ProAm is now less than a month and half away! But there is still time to get in a couple of batches before May 10th.  So we thought it would great to get a couple wise words from last years winner Kevin Jones.  Heres what we talked about:


1. When did you start brewing/What got you brewing? 1996.  I was thinking about taking some gourmet cooking classes when I met a co-worker that brewed beer.  I asked, how do you do that?  He told me how to get started and I quickly forgot about those cooking classes.  I have much more passion about good beer than gourmet food.

2. When did you know this was no ordinary hobby, it was an obsession? I moved out of the kitchen and into the garage fairly soon.  Not long after that there wasn’t much room left for the car.  In addition to all the brew equipment I added a 3 tap keggerator and a chest freezer for lagers.  I was like the goldfish.  I needed a bigger bowl so I could grow.  When we built our house I finished out the basement creating the brewery and bar of my dreams.  Obsession? Maybe.  Out of control? Definately.

kevin Jones.jpg

3. What was the first beer you ever brewed?  How did it turn out? It was a stout.  I was advised that “you can hide more problems in a dark beer.”  I liked Guinness and so I took that advice.  I thought it was great!  Looking back on it, not so sure.

4. Do you have a special homebrew related project that you’d like to share?/ What is your favorite style(s) to brew?/  What style(s) will you never brew? I always have a homebrew project in the works, a brew in some stage or equipment upgrade. I’m finally getting into barrel aged beers.   I have a double chocolate stout in the keg now.  I plan to barrel age it, probably a bourbon barrel.

Favorite style?  I won the most awards with a Southern English Brown.  I love brewing the IPA’s of course.  I’ve brewed them all at one time or another.  The house beer is Regina Pale Ale.  Its named after my wife.  I created it when we started dating.  She was a legacy beer drinker and that just would not do.  So I worked up a beer just to her liking,  It has been a house favorite ever since.

5. Do you have a homebrewing disaster you’d like to share?/ Have you ever had a homebrew mistake that turned out great?

Yes I have.  I was trying to move away from glass carboys and into conicals.  I bought some good grade plastic mix tanks, 17 gal, high quality.  Converted them to conical fermentors.  I had success and failures but after dumping the 3rd 15 gallon batch down the drain I got out my checkbook and bought some Blichman Stainless conicals.  They are great.

The batches I dumped were infected.  I don’t think it was a plastic problems as much as I could not get a good seal.  Anyway, the beer was unsalvageable.  But if a beer is simply not good...result of an experiment, etc., I always keg it and save it.  You never know.

We brewed a proven, blue ribbon recipe Dunkle once and decided to breakout 5 gallons and use a pilsner yeast.  It was not good, but I kept it in cold storage.  A year or so later it was trending better so I kept longer.  Several years later, better yet.  Then forgot about it for a while.  At 8 years old it was the best Dunkle ever.  Past magical.  Just awesome.  I was sad when it ended because making more probably will not happen.

6. Tell us about what inspired your winning brew last year? What was it like when you won? Were you surprised? I won with a Pecan Porter.  The idea for this beer came from 512 Brewery’s Pecan Porter.  They are in Austin,TX.  When I visit my brother there we always go to the Draught House and drink Pecan Porter.  I knew I must clone this beer.  With some Austin connections I got some notes on how to make this beer and it came out great!  Everyone loves it.  When the CSB ProAm came around I thought it might do well but I was still very surprised.  We have so many great brewers in the Nashville area that I no longer expect to win any competition.  15 years ago, a well made beer, close to style would win a competition.  Not anymore.  As a BJCP judge, I have noticed the beers getting better and better.  I had no expectations of winning, so it was a real thrill.

7. Tell us the process of working with Derrick, our Brewmaster?/ What was it like to see your brew go to the big system and be put on tap for the public? Any Reactions from drinkers? As most brewers know, scaling recipes between homebrew size and commercial size can be tricky.  Derrick is a very talented, technical and precise brewer and I tend to be somewhat technical as well.  I use ProMash extensively so Derrick and I sat down, both with our laptops and respective brew software.  We spent hours making adjustments.  When the software couldn’t solve the problem we turned to the art side of brewing.  We put our heads together and with Derrick’s talent and his complete mastery of the CSB brewery we came up with a recipe and a plan.  When we brewed it our first attempt right on.  We decided not to change a thing. CSB Don Juan Porter was born.

People love this beer.  It is not a session beer and is better in the winter.  It is dark and rich.  A good after dinner drink.

Brewing on the big scale and seeing customers enjoy your beer is always a bit of an ego trip for any homebrewer.

8.Tell us about your experience at the Great American Beer Festival.  What was your favorite part about it? This was my first trip to the GABF.  I had always wanted to go but was secretly hoping to go as brewer some day.  Well, I got my wish thanks to CSB.

Every beer lover should go to this festival at some time in their life.  The experience is simply overwhelming.  “3000 beers and one tiny glass” as the saying goes.  And if you go, go early.  Spend the week on the front range visiting all the breweries and pubs you can.  It is one big, week long party.  Regina and I toured several breweries and because I was a “brewer” we often got the VIP tour.  One day we found ourselves in the New Belgium brewery’s yeast lab on a private tour hosted by one of their master brewers.  You don’t get that kind of access unless you are a brewer.

We also bought tickets to the Rare Beer tasting event.  This is separate from GABF but well worth the money.  We found some of the most amazing beers ever at this event.  Many not for sale, so this is truly a rare event.

The Festival itself is just beer nirvana.  Plan ahead.  GABF puts out an app for the festival.  Use it.  You need a plan.

Derrick was a great help.  He is well experienced with the GABF.  Planning the trip I called him many times asking how does this and that work?  Should we plan to do this or that?  There is just so much to do that week.

Overall it was everything I expected and more.  I should also mention somewhat humbling.  With all the great beers there from all the top breweries, having your own beer being poured alongside them was a real thrill.  I’ve won lots of beer awards but this one felt the best.

9. Any tips for newbies entering into ProAm Competitions? Are you competing again this year? I’m not competing this year.  I dont have a beer ready that I want to enter.  Probably next year.  For those considering entering, I say do it.  But if you want to maximize your chances of winning you need to think about what beer is best to enter.  A ProAm is not a BJCP event.  The beers are not judged for style, they are judged for what will sell well.  There can be a big difference between your favorite homebrew project and what a commercial brewery can sell.  Think about the kind of beers the brewery typically has on tap.  Try to get in that vein.  Try to pick a beer you think their customers would like.  As a courtesy to the brewery, make sure the beer can be reproduced on a commercial scale (no exotic, unobtainable or overly expensive ingredients, two year barrel aging required, etc) and enter a beer you love!


10. Any favorite beer(s) from CSB? And why? What would like to see CSB brew for the future? I like the fact that Derrick and CSB offers beers outside the box.  It seems like every brewery has the standard line up of light to dark with an IPA in there somewhere.  CSB does the same but with some flare, or a kick.  And they do it well.  Their beers may have coconut or fruit or pepper, all of which are tricky in beer because beer needs to be beer first.  The adjunct flavors should not dominate the beer.  Its a fine line and they do it well.  It was their coconut porter that made me think my Pecan Porter might do well in the ProAm.  

What’s my favorite CSB beer?  Well...the Don Juan Porter of course.  But if that is not on tap, I will start with any new offering and eventually move to my standby, Pecker Wrecker.

If you are interested in competing this year, you have less than a month to get your entries to CSB. Follow the jump to get registered!

Click here to sign up


-Nate Underwood

Marketing Intern

Brewmaster's Blog!

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