For Janeen Hulbert, earning the People’s Choice award at Just Economics’ 2018 Just Brew It homebrew competition was the result of seven years of hard work.
The chiropractor, Anatomy and Physiology teacher and outdoors enthusiast started brewing upon moving to Asheville in 2012 with help from an experienced housemate. She’d always wanted to brew her own beer but never had the time, space or money to realize that dream. In her new home, she’s joined a fun, supportive group of homebrewers via Mountain Ale and Lager Tasters and Asheville Brewers Supply who are willing to share advice and sample one another’s creations, and their enthusiasm has helped Hulbert develop greater confidence in her brews.
“I think it will take more years of consistent homebrewing to officially formulate my own philosophy of brewing and the beer I make,” Hulbert says. “What I do know is that each batch of beer I design and create, I do with absolute passion. No corners are cut, I fully research every single ingredient — only including the best in each batch — and I try to be unique with my concoctions for craft beer drinkers to experience.”
Hulbert first participated in Just Brew It in 2016 and has returned each subsequent year. She enjoys the friendly challenge to provide the best beer she can make alongside many of the other top homebrewers in Western North Carolina, all while promoting Just Economics’ efforts to maintain a sustainable local economy.
One of the beers Hulbert brought for the 2018 event was a 5-gallon batch of her Chaga Coffee Stout. The idea for the creative combination came about because she routinely adds chaga mushrooms to her morning coffee — and one day it occurred to her that it would pair well in a stout.
“A lot of people told me they liked the idea of a ‘health beer’ that contains high levels of antioxidants,” Hulbert says. “Some even mentioned they could drink it for breakfast or pair it with a doughnut.”
The feedback for the stout was so strong that it translated into the highest number of participant votes and Hulbert taking home the competition’s top prize. “I was floored when they called my name,” she says. “I felt so humbled and thrilled that a beer I dreamed of and created was a hit. You never know what people are going to think when you start adding mushrooms in your beer.”
Returning for the 2019 Just Brew It, set for Saturday, June 15, at Wedge Brewing Co.’s Foundation location, Hulbert recently upgraded to an electric system called “The Grainfather,” which she picked up after a brewing demonstration at Asheville Brewers Supply.
“The Grainfather is awesome for step-mashing and recirculating the wort for more accurate temperature throughout the kettle,” she says. “Before this system, I’ve used a 15-gallon SS brewing kettle with two converted Gatorade coolers for my mash tun and sparge water. I’ve always utilized gravity-fed systems, so now having a pump has really taken my homebrewing to another level.”
She’ll look to defend her title by bringing a selection of summer beers, along with what she calls “some eye-catching additions for a more complex journey though the senses,” further diversifying her offerings from previous years.