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Ooorah — A disciplined approach to craft brewing

By Paul Viau | Jan 20, 2016
Photo by: Paul Viau THESE DAWGS CAN BREW — Clark Williams, owner of Frog Level Brewing Company, is pictured with talented 'Next-Gen' craft brewer, Dan Rowe.

You meet the nicest people at local area craft breweries — and see the bright future of the craft beer industry personified, when you attend homebrewing competitions.

That’s why I look forward to attending home brewing events. And occasionally, I am asked to be a ‘guest judge.’

Not that I am a certified beer judge — That’s a work in progress.

I am, however, equipped with a good nose, sharp tongue and a wee bit of experience sampling good, craft beer.

Last fall, I had that honor of judging Frog Level Brewing Company’s second annual Homebrew and Chili Cook-off Competition. Thankfully, my brother, Rob, who is an accomplished home brewer, but did not participate this year — That would have been awkward. But I probably would not have known which beer was his if he had entered.

At these competitions, the judges sample numbered bottles of beer (one at a time) and each bottle is marked with: (1) an entry number; and (2) the number/letter identifying the BCBJ style of beer.

Did you know? — For judging purposes, there are 28 categories of beer and cider, each with as many as five variations.

For example, under the popular BJCP beer style #14 — India Pale Ale or IPA — there are three sub-categories: English IPA, American IPA, and Imperial IPA.

Each category is judged individually, against target profiles for appearance, flavor, mouth feel and overall impression.

I know, it’s complicated — but judging has its rewards.

Occasionally, we get to meet the winners (afterwards) and have an opportunity to visit with them. And every once in a while, we connect with someone who you can ‘just feel’ is going to ‘do great things’ in the craft beer industry.

At the Frog Level Homebrewing competition, the clear winner was a young man from Clyde — Dan Rowe. His Rye IPA was a hop-forward, delicately fruity IPA with a distinctive rye character. It was excellent — to say the least.

When I asked him why he brewed a Rye IPA, he surprised me by replying, “The world needs more rye beers.”

It turns out that the inspiration for Dan Rowe’s entry was one of his all-time-favorite beers — an Asheville’s Burial Beer flagship — Scythe Rye India Pale Ale.

Dan Rowe keeps good company, and he is an avid student of both the art and science of brewing. “Every beer is an educational experience,” said Rowe, who plans to make brewing his career.

From what I tasted in October, he is off to a great start.

Rowe is currently in his second semester of AB-Tech’s Brewing, Distillation and Fermentation program. This five-semester immersion program takes both discipline and dedication, but I have every confidence that Rowe will get his A.A.S. degree.

After all — Ooohrah — Dan Rowe is a Marine. He and fellow-Marine, Clark Williams, owner of Frog Level Brewing Company, have become what Williams calls, “Internet boyfriends.”

This casual mentoring program has guided Rowe through four years of all-grain home brewing on a system he describes as an ‘old world’ setup.

“I’m doing the best I can until I can afford a SABCO Brew Magic,” Rowe said.

That’s the $10,000 brewing system that has launched the careers of countless brewing legends, but it is a ‘big nut’ for a 28 year-old, married father of two.

Both Rowe and his wife, Allison, are furthering their education. She’s planning to study art education at UNCA and both are teaming-up, raising two young children — son, Weston and daughter, Juniper. (This doesn’t allow much time for beer drinking.)

By the way, Allison Rowe is a Marine, too. The couple met at Camp Lejeune in 2008. Dan was a forward observer and Allison was a photographer/videographer.

Their Marine training is certainly driving their disciplined pursuit of family, career and happiness.

As for the kinds of beer Dan Rowe likes to drink — his favorites beer styles are pale ales, IPA’s and “…whatever is local and most creative.” (Great answer.)

Rowe also is a big fan of what Jeff Irvin, AB-Tech’s professor of Brewing, Distillation and Fermentation calls — “The best beer … free beer.”

Which reminds me of why I like being a “guest judge.”

So remember that name — Dan Rowe. He’s a brewer to watch now, and salute (as in ‘Por su salud’) later. BTW, you can contact Dan at dcr311@gmail.com, but I doubt you’ll get any free beer.