Compiled by Bill Ridgely, BURP Archivist
For many years now, November has been set aside for BURP members to celebrate the joys of traditional English-style cask ale (better known to club members as Real Ale). The year 2008 marked the 12th year of BURP’s annual Real Ale Competition and Festival, held (as it had been since 1998) at the Aaronridge Pub in Rockville, MD. As always, the competition (registered with the BJCP and recognized nationally) was held on Friday evening, judged by 24 fully credentialed BJCP judges (most of them BURP members and most having traveled to the UK to enjoy this style of beer). On Saturday, all remaining beers were then made available to club members and their guests at the annual Real Ale Festival. This year in particular was a banner year for the event with 51 total entries (a mark that has never been exceeded), and there was a very wide range of beer styles. While there were familiar names in the winners circle that year, a new name took the grand prize as Real Ale Champion, Mitch Pilchuk. Mitch was a new member from N. Virginia who subsequently went to England to study Real Ale brewing at the source and eventually returned to the US to work as a professional brewer (which he continues to do to this day). Mitch won the competition with his 80 Shilling Scottish Export Ale. Second place in the competition went to long time BURPers Dave & Becky Pyle for their Ordinary Bitter, and third went to BURPer Phil Sides for his Brown Porter. The coveted “Cellarman’s Choice” award, given by the competition stewards for the “best beer that did not go to the Best of Show table”, was taken by BURPers Ty Ming & Pat Macy for their English Mild.
Up to this point, the Real Ale event had gone smoothly, with great beers and happy winners. As the festival unfolded on Saturday, things looked great as well. Temperatures were comfortable and the sun filled the sky – for the first hour or so. But this high point passed quickly. By 2:00 PM, the sky had darkened ominously, and the wind had picked up to near gale force. The canopies that had been set up outside began to sway as the crowd rushed to gather as much food and paper goods as possible. The storm broke quickly and soon turned the Aaronridge back yard into a muddy marshland, with guests scattering in all directions. Most people headed directly into the house, carrying with them vast quantities of mud and detritus from the yard. By the storm’s end, the house was a disaster area with mud virtually everywhere. But the hosts took it all in good stride. Following the event, the BURP Club generously paid for house and rug cleaning services, and the pub was back in good shape for the following year’s Real Ale event. Looking at Bob Kepler’s great photos in the Dec 2008 issue of BURP News, you would never know this mini-disaster had unfolded. But as always, a fine time was had by all. You can view these photos and read the entire issue on the BURP website at https://www.burp.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Newsletter200812.pdf.
The Nov 2008 issue of BURP News began with a short review of BURP’s first Brewing Water Workshop, hosted on Nov 1 by BURPer A.J. deLange, who was already recognized by this time as one of the foremost authorities on the subject. A total of 22 BURPers devoted 4 hours of their time on a beautiful Fall afternoon to this workshop, which showcased A.J.’s encyclopedic knowledge of his subject. Following the review, Dr Charlie Pavitt’s “Trivial Beer-Suits” column featured insights on the origin of Germany’s beer purity laws. Two things stood out in the discussion, based largely on a reading of Clive La Pensee’s book, The Historical Companion to House-Brewing. The first was that the purity law, with its original prohibition on all grains but barley, applied only to lagers. Wheat was eventually added so that Weizenbier, an ale style, could also be accommodated. The second point was that homebrewing was once suppressed in Germany, and it was still nearly impossible to find a book on homebrewing written in German. You can read the entire issue on the BURP website at https://www.burp.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Newsletter200811.pdf.