From Garage To Tap: How Two Sacramento Home-Brewer’s Made It On Tap At 21st Amendment Brewing Co.

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Phil and Darrell

Phil and Darrell

November 29, 2014

“I started in my garage” is the beginning of a lot of businesses that are idolized in our culture. Startups to corporate giants, tech innovators to colossus tech companies, home brewers to commercial brewers; the list goes on. Home-brewers know this story very well and, for most of us, this launching pad is also the final destination. However, for home brewers Darrell Amerine and Phil Csik, this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. 

On an overcast day during Sacramento Beer Week 2014, the guys at 21st Amendment Brewery teamed up with Ken Hotchkiss, owner of Capitol Beer and Tap Room to bring to the city of trees the 2nd Annual Capital City Brewers’ Battle. Beers In Sac was in attendance that afternoon with many other craft-beer drinkers and brewers, and witnessed the winning Black Wheat IPA brewed out on the patio while drinking great beers. 

Darrell Amerine and Phil Csik of the Greenbelt Brewers Association (GBA) were the home-brewers and eventual winners of the Capitol City Brewers’ Battle, opening up the door to a brew day with 21st Amendment at the end of 2014. This winning home-brew will eventually be on tap at 21st Amendment Brewery and a few retail establishments. 

The GBA established in 2006, began when a group of like minded home-brewers started meeting periodically in a back corner of The Graduate, a popular bar located in the college town of Davis, CA, to share home-brew stories and ways to improve their beers. It wasn’t long before GBA expanded its membership, and eventually developed a good relationship with the commercial brewery, Sudwerk Brewing Co., also based in Davis. Sudwerk eventually opened up there meeting room to the GBA, offering a place for GBA members to hone their skills, network with home-brewers, and increase exposure to brewing-related technology up and down Northern California. The GBA had greatly influenced Amerine's and Csik’s brewing strategies and formulas, and played a critical role in there winning brew. 

"it’s a big beer 7% ABV and provides a malt forward and roast profile that has a hint of citrus, supported by hop additions"

The winning home-brew, referred to as Black Beard, was a Black Wheat IPA, well balanced, involving distinctive west coast hop additions, with sufficient base malt and a delightful presence of roasted wheat. The coriander and orange zest added subtle complexity behind the malt and complimented the hop flavors. Amerine talked about the brew, stating that the, “beer was something that might fit into the 21st Amendment Brewery lineup, it’s a big beer 7% ABV and provides a malt forward and roast profile that has a hint of citrus, supported by hop additions.” Amerine’s hope was that it would be unique, but fit into what they already have in their lineup of beers.

Amerine and Csik, as winners of the Capital City Brewers Battle, teamed up with 21st Amendment Brewery and Head Brewmaster David “Zambo” Zamborski on November 8th for the brew day. They brewed the winning Black Beard recipe on the 20-barrel system, with the beer to be released at the brewery soon. You can also expect for Capitol Beer and Tap Room to have a keg of Black Beard. Zamborski enthusiastically talked about his time at 21st Amendment Brewery, stating that he’s brewed there for “5 glorious years, through 3 World Series Championships!” And with 21st Amendment Brewery being right down the road from where the San Francisco Giants play, the brewery has become a huge part of the baseball scene in the San Francisco Bay Area. Zamborski has now participated in back to back brew days for the Capitol City Brewers Battle, both in 2013 and 2014. And when Zamborski spoke about this years winning home-brew, Black Beard, he exclaimed about its taste and aroma. Zamborski gave a brief overview of the brew day, saying, “We divided responsibilities on the labor (grains-out, cleaning, ect.). And we went over brewery basics as compared to home-brewing.” Zamborski said it was a great brew day, and they “worked hard and had many great beers!” And if you’d like to try Black Beard on cask, aged on bourbon-oak, then come on down to the brewery on the evening of December 5th for the Repeal Day at 21st Amendment Brewery. This is one you won’t want to miss.

“Don’t feel intimidated. Enter your home-brews into competitions. You will get helpful feedback and insight into what you might do better.”

As we delved into the curators of Black Beard, we spoke first with Amerine’s brewing partner, Phil Csik. Csik who has 5 years of home brewing experience, and with 100 all-grain batches under his belt, has emerged as a highly respected home-brewer in the region. Csik, while brewing mostly beer, has also been dabbling in mead and cider making. As a Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Certified Judge, he has grown his knowledge base through beer judging at the majority of the Northern California American Home-brewer’s Association (AHA) approved home-brew competitions. With his third Pro-Am win this year, he talked about this year’s competition, saying, “Darrell and I discussed the basic recipe, adjuncts and what type of yeast to use (last year the yeast wasn’t adequately viable) well in advance to ensure that the brew day would go smoothly and we had all the proper ingredients on hand.” When asked to expand on how this brew day was different from the last, he continued, stating, “We also purchased fresh fruit and zested on location. Darrell volunteered to bring his equipment, so after we got things set up I tended the brew pot while Darrell made sure our time and temps were accurate.” And when referencing transition, he talked about the, all-grain to extract, and the attention to time, temp, and detail that this brew took. Csik doesn’t take brewing lightly, and when asked for any tips for someone just getting into brewing, he was quick to respond, stating, “Don’t feel intimidated. Enter your home-brews into competitions. You will get helpful feedback and insight into what you might do better.” Csik further stated the importance of surrounding oneself with experience, saying, “Consider joining a home-brew club,” or “ask an experienced home brewer if you can assist them.”

While Csik’s passion for brewing is contagious, we spoke with his likeminded brewing partner Darrell Amerine about his own home brewing journey. We found that along with Csik, he also has 5 years of home brewing experience. Amerine started out with home-brew kits from Folsom Brewmeister where he learned the basics, and progressed to all-grain, which he has been doing for the past 3 years. Exposed to brewing by a friend, Amerine started with a few batches at Brew It Up, until it closed down, and on that closing day, he bought some of the equipment to take home for his home-brewing needs. Amerine immersed himself in brewing literature, and eventually joined the Greenbelt Brewers Association home-brew club. His brewing knowledge expanded through forums, discussions, and most importantly brewing beer. It wasn’t long before Amerine started to enter home-brew competitions, receiving valuable feedback from Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Certified Judges.

Zamborski getting the coriander ready

Zamborski getting the coriander ready

And at the recent brew day in early November at 21st Amendment Brewery, Amerine was grateful, stating, “The brew day at 21st Amendment was an awesome experience.” He continued, referring to the Head Brewmaster Zamborski, saying, “He was a gracious host who was there to allow us to learn.” Zamborski not only treated Amerine and Csik to lunch and 21st Amendment brew, but also to a hard days work in the back of the brewery, assisting with the entire brewing process from beginning to end, and lest we not forget, even the cleaning of the equipment. Beers In Sac was there, witnessing the precision and attention to detail, and with inspiration in the air, the excitement grew for the release of Black Beard. This was just another day in the life of a Head Brewmaster, and while glorified as it is, it’s all about commitment and hard work, that which Amerine and Csik did not shy away from.

When we asked what Sacramento can expect next from this team of home-brewers, Csik stated, “Darrell and I are already discussing our recipe for the 3rd Capital City Brewers Challenge in 2015.” And for the Greenbelt Brewers Association, look out for the “Bridging the Gap” Home-brew Competition once again, coming this April.

So if you make it out to 21st Amendment Brewing Co., or if you’re sticking around Sacramento and find yourself over at Capitol Beer and Tap Room, stop in for a pint of Black Beard, and enjoy the journey that inspired the winning Black Wheat IPA.

Written by Beers In Sac's co-founder Scott Scoville