What is the Pickle Tournament?

What the bloody hell is “Pickle Tournament”?

The Pickle Tournament was initially envisioned by myself and a couple close friends as a way of having serious fun in a very silly environment. The event fits perfectly into the bizarre world of Silly Sir. Initial tournaments were held in my parent’s basement in Scarborough and have since expanded to being held in my parent’s not-basement in Scarborough (i.e. their back deck and living spaces, the poor old fogies).

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Voting for the best pickle sculpture at Pickle Tournament 2016

Pickle Tournament is at its core, a gaming tournament. A really silly gaming tournament where participants are encouraged to embrace the absurd. Some people wear tape on their heads, make pickle sculptures, or make pickle martinis without fear of judgement. In fact, such antics are openly encouraged. Being silly at Pickle Tournament is of course not mandatory – being silly isn’t fun if it’s mandatory. It’s really just about just lowering your guard slightly to embrace your inner pickle, (whatever that means to you).

Since its inception, Pickle Tournament has grown to accommodate more people, and more ridiculous activities. The initial “beta” Pickle Tournament saw only around 7-8 competitors who competed for trophies that Sara and I made out of actual pickles and toothpicks. One of them was for ping-pong.

Incredibly stupid. They became dehydrated/wilted very quickly.

Incredibly stupid. They became dehydrated/wilted very quickly.

It’s since become so over-the-top and competitive that we now ask for donations to help cover some of the costs. It’s a lot of fun putting so much time and effort into something so nonsensical. We take the planning very seriously, and are proud of the results. Below is an overview of each Pickle Official Pickle Tournament to date.

What Happens at PT?

1st Annual Pickle Tournament

The first annual Pickle Tournament was held in the summer of 2014 and saw pickle trophies and prizes awarded to the top competitors of the following games:

  1. Smash Bros. 4 
  2. The Mario Kart 8
  3. Nintendo Land Pickle

Additionally, participants were encouraged to wear silly hats for a chance at winning the Silly Hat Trophy. There were fewer than 14 competitors overall. The 1st annual Pickle Tournament set the stage for what was to come.

Congrats, Arlee on your Nintendo Land win!

Congrats, Arlee on your Nintendo Land win!

The 2nd Annual Pickle Tournament

The 2nd Annual Pickle Tournament started with the recitation of a pickle oath, and spiralled into jubilant madness. This year’s prizes expanded to include the Pickle Spirit Award, and the Pickle Mascot Drawing Competition Trophy. Pickle Spirit was awarded to the competitor who showed the most enthusiasm and love for all things pickle. The first Pickle Spirit champion shared cucumber martinis with attendees, brought several jars of pickles, and wore bright green pants. I wish we had pictures of Michael at PT2 – he is a legend.

2nd Annual Pickle Trophies - Left to right: Smash 4 (+Amiibo prize), Mario Party 10, Pickle Spirit, Mario Kart 8, Mascot Drawing.

2nd Annual Pickle Trophies – Left to right: Smash 4 (+Amiibo prize), Mario Party 10, Pickle Spirit, Mario Kart 8, Mascot Drawing.

Our ambitions further expanded in the second annual Pickle Tournament and drew out 24 competitors, and several more attendees. I was just starting out homebrewing and thought it’d be wise to brew a pickle beer for the tournament. I brewed a Brewer’s Best APA All Grain kit as a base for the recipe, and added fresh dill to the secondary fermenter. It was my first all grain batch, and while it wasn’t the worst, it wasn’t a recipe I’ll repeat anytime soon.

The infamous "Pickle APA" - With Fresh Dill!

The infamous “Pickle APA” – With Fresh Dill! Buy yours never (-ever)! It has dill!

In order to really shake things up, five unmarked bottles were filled halfway to the brim with pickle brine. Competitors who were (un)lucky enough to find and finish a “pickle bomb” beer were inducted into the Pickle Hall of Fame – WHICH EXISTS SOMEWHERE I SWEAR!

So far, Mario Kart 8 and Smash Bros. 4 have been consistent pillars at each Pickle Tournament. There’s always also a third game that is variable and less intensely competitive. This year’s tournament saw competitors compete in a round of Mario Party 10. As for our special event: we hosted a pickle mascot drawing competition.

Note: "Captain Pickle-card" which on the back reads: Isaac's copyright infringe-y entry...

Some of the entries… NOTE: “Captain Pickle-card” which on the back reads: Isaac’s copyright infringe-y entry… classic Isaac.

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The winning entry. Somebody actually needs to make a mascot costume for the next competition… Any takers?

The 2nd Annual Pickle Tournament was a blast, but was confined exclusively to the back deck of my parent’s place. As such, it was rather crowded for the space. Fortunately the 3rd Annual PT was everything the 2nd should have been, and more.

The 3rd Annual Pickle Tournament
Trophies, coins, competitor lanyards...

Trophies, coins, competitor lanyards…

The most recent PT was a resounding success attracting 28 competitors on very short notice. We had two beers bottled for serving: Sheebah! (a wheat beer) and our in-house Pickle Tournament 2016 Amber which won a gold medal at Forest City Beer Bout. They were both big steps forward in terms of beer quality for Silly Sir Brewing Co., and competitors downed nearly 80 bottles worth of beer. Here’s the recipe for the Amber:

Pickle Tournament Amber Ale 2016 recipe: 

Weights are for 5.5 gallon batch into the fermenter:

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Mash @ 156 F for 50 minutes 

Batch sparge 168.

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Whirlfloc at 10.0 min; ferment at 73F. Target mash pH was 5.35

Tasting notes: medium-high caramel notes; malt-forward, bright hop aroma. Drop the mash temperature 2-3F for less maltiness, though it should remain the highlight. I find Apollo bittering hops make for an incredibly soft, pleasant bitterness.

I'm still learning how to do food photography...

I’m still learning how to do food photography…


Beyond the delicious free beer, PT2016 featured a  Pickle Sculpting Competition. I was actually concerned it would fall flat due to the low online registration rate, and considered cancelling this portion of the event. I’m glad I didn’t – the sculptures ended up looking fantastic and far exceeding all expectations. In fact the top two pickle sculptures tied in the first round:

Ultimately the win went to Sir Picklehouse the III, but it was extremely tight. Here are some of the runner ups:

Again, Mario Kart 8 and Smash 4 were featured as “the big two” competitions, but this time we had a high-score Duck Hunt station for pick-up high-score besting, as well as a spacious Wii Sports bowling alley we arranged as our accessible game that would additionally appeal to our non-gaming friends.

When Kailen stepped up to the plate for Duck Hunt, we knew nobody would top his incredible score of like, 28701291081 pts. This sort of high score station will likely persist through the ages of Pickle Tournament rotating through various retro games.

What’s in Store for the Future?

We’re always thinking up ways on how to improve an expand Pickle Tournament universe in fun and exciting ways. We’ve already got ideas for future events, and actively encourage suggestions and collaboration with participants. If you have a suggestions for things you’d like to see at a future event send an email to matt [at] sillysir.com . We hope to see you next year!

Homebrew Label Design 101 – A Peek Inside Silly Sir’s Labelling Process

Until recently, the label design quality of my beer was more consistent than the beer itself. This is in large part thanks to the incredible effort and skills of my girlfriend Sara who is a designer, and who can adapt and adjust my label sketches in all the right ways to make them look great. She’s taught me everything I know about what makes good homebrew label design. As I continue to perfect my brewing methods and upgrade my equipment, our beer quality has continued to improve and is now falling in line with our great labels.

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The Craft Beer Explosion of Vietnam (and the Sketchy Beginnings of my Beer Obsession)

Note: I originally wrote this piece for the Neat Pour audience. Though it’s not quite my style (part of my goal with Silly Sir is to make great beer appealing to casual drinkers by avoiding describing it so much), I think it makes for a pretty interesting read. 

In the Beginning…

I started drinking beer when I was three-years-old. A curious miniature me demanded a sip from my mother’s can of Budweiser. “You won’t like it!” she insisted. She was right. It was here, at this early age, that I learned beer tasted like piss and vinegar. It was an awful substance, and I couldn’t understand why grown-ups liked the stuff. I swore I’d never drink beer again–in hindsight, I realize that this sentiment was exactly what my mom wanted to hear.

In my defence, all the cool kids were doing it…

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The Thai Have Slightly Thicker Beer(ds)

If I were to take a random sampling of my readership audience I’d wager a bet that at least 90% of you are white men. Of this group, 75% of you have pretty legendary beards, and if you don’t it’s probably because your beard growing capabilities are sub-par. Of the remaining 10%, half of you are white females (probably not bearded), and the rest of you are from various ethnicities (though you’re most definitely blokes). The GTA Brews Homebrewing Club – of which I am a member – is the biggest of such clubs in Toronto. Toronto has one of the most diverse populations in the world, and yet GTA Brews struggles to broaden its base to appeal to women and minorities. We’re trying though. Amongst the rarest in the group, it seems, are black, and Asian people.

If you’ve been following the blog of late, you’re aware that I’m in fact currently backpacking across Southeast Asia with my girlfriend, Sara. She’s of Malaysian descent and technically a GTA Brews member – whaaaaat?! We started our travels in Singapore, flew to Indonesia, then hit up Malaysia and Sri Lanka before landing in Thailand. Sadly, the variety of beer in these countries has been quite limited. I can only occasionally sniff out craft beer, and when I do it’s usually in obscure pockets of big cities. Even still, the beers at these niche bars are usually imported from Europe or North America and (almost) never locally brewed…

… unless you’re in Bangkok!

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Insane and Idealistic…

Many hobbyists in the homebrewing community feel as though the craft brewing market is saturated with brewpubs and microbreweries that it’s inevitably slated for collapse. Some argue that opening a brewpub or brewing company is not worth the risk, and that it’s current rate of growth is unsustainable. By this same logic, New York City’s massively successful Shake Shack burger joint would probably never have opened since there were already hundreds of hamburger restaurants in the city at the time, and the burger market share in New York was spread so thin. In 2004, Shake Shack took off.

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Through my travels (I’m currently doing a half-year trip around Southeast Asia) I’ve had lots of downtime at airports and on buses to reflect upon these apocalyptic predictions and to consider the risks involved in my own brewing ambitions. Opening a Silly Sir brewpub and/or brewing company is a daunting, high-risk task that will require intense dedication, long hours, and serious commitment and consideration if it is to become the bustling hangout I envision. At this point, my role is almost exclusively that of a sponge – soaking up as much information as I can on how to successfully run, market, and sustain a viable business. Here’s what I’ve learned so far in listening to podcasts, reading books, and skimming websites on the matter.

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Durian + Alcohol = INSTANT DEATH?!

Most Malaysians go absolutely crazy for this perplexing, stinky fruit called durian. Its creamy fruit centre is encased in a hard, spiky shell, and its distinctive sulphuric stink immediately envelops its surroundings in a foul, garbage-like wave of offense. It is said that consuming alcohol and durians together will result in an instant death. Sara’s younger cousin insisted that I not drink any beer while consuming the controversial fruit as I’d immediately keel over and die.

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I was skeptical. Being the experimental brewer that I am, I bet against this notion and almost took it as a challenge. ‘I’ll show you!’ I thought, ‘I’ll even craft a durian beer to in order to falsify this silly myth!’ (though I’d give it to the suckers in my local homebrew club to try first, of course, just in case).

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Bali Hai – Indonesia’s Best Beer

Sara and I are currently in Bali, which is home to our new favourite Southeast Asian beer thus far: Bali Hai. We stumbled upon it at a knock off 7-11 (Mini Mart) in Ubud, and were thrilled to finally find a beer that wasn’t Heineken or Bintang (Indonesia’s favourite beer). I bought a small can of it for the equivalent of about $2.40 CAD and proceeded onward to the Alcoholic Monkey Forest.

This one passively pawed at it, but I would not let go...

This one passively pawed at it, but I would not let go…

While nothing special, the beer far surpasses Bintang in terms of drinkability. It’s a typical adjunct lager with a slight cereal aroma and taste. It’s a little sweet overall, but fine. Meh, it’s another lager.

As we entered the forest, an alpha climbed onto my back swinging from arm to arm in a desperate attempt to score some swigs. These are bloody alcoholic monkeys man, and I guess they’re just sick of Bintang. I am too.

Before the ambush, I posed like a douche and ignored the sign...

Before the ambush, I posed like a douche and ignored the sign…

Have you tried Bintang or Bali Hai? What did you think? What’s your favourite international beer that you can’t get back home?

The One Good Beer of Southeast Asia (So Far)

In considering what to write about Southeast Asian beer, I almost just want to say don’t bother and leave it at that. Granted, we’ve only explored Singapore and Indonesia thus far, but the beer we have tried leaves a lot to be desired. This is hardly surprising given that the Muslim population of Indonesia, for example, hovers around 90% (Singapore shares a similar demographic makeup). There’s maybe one exception, and I’m bored and on a 9 hour train ride to Yogyakarta, Indonesia, so here’s a breif write up.

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Introducing: Klifferd the Big Red Ale

Top o’ the mornin’ to yeh! Or evenin’… ♩ Lar-de-dar-de-diddle de-dum de-dee! ♩ *clicks heels in the air*

*ahem* excuse me… sorry. I sometimes (err…often) get carried away. I was typing in an Irish accent if you didn’t follow. I hope you read it that way. If not, I’ll give you five seconds to go back and read it again with an Irish voice in your head… Done? Good. The Irish always seem so chipper, with St. Paddy’s Day finally here, there’s much to be chipper about. For instance, Silly Sir Brewing Co. (a.k.a. me) is proud to announce the release of it’s second Irish Red ale: Klifferd the Big Red Ale. It’s big, it’s Irish, and it’s a whole lot of deliciousness capped and trapped in a bottle.

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Rapidly chillin’ the wort with copper coils

Man, I’ve typed so much, yet said so little. Alright, let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we?

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Introducing: Giggle Splash IPA

 

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Giggle Splash is my first attempt at a highly aromatic American IPA. American IPAs are marked by their bright, citrusy hop aromas, and high bitterness. Giggle Splash sits at around 57 International Bitterness Units (IBU) which is considered moderate according official guidelines. For comparison, Budweiser and Molson Canadian sit at around 10 IBU or so (plus or minus a few units). So yes, it’s quite hoppy.

The recipe comes from Eric Brews and was originally brewed for his wedding. Eric Cousineau is a highly experienced and technical homebrewer who helms the GTA Brews Homebrew Club of which I am a member. As such, I knew this recipe would be tops blooby, so I decided to give it a shot.

As for the name of this beer, I reached out to several friends for suggestions. I told them it would be citrusy, and bitter. Among the suggestions were: Snacky Tasty Beery Drink, Golden Juice, Cloud Display, Orange Appeal, OJ IPA. While I wasn’t initially sold on Giggle Splash, my friend Ethan defended his suggestion:

“…it’s light. It’s refreshing, it causes giggles. Splash is associated with citrus all the time (juices, soda)… consumers care about how it makes them feel…”

… and that’s why I keep Ethan close to my heart. He articulates so perfectly what I know to be true instinctively and encourages he my insanity.

As always, my indulgent girlfriend Sara designed and executed the labels. I told her I wanted it to be extremely bright, cartoonish, and ridiculous. The labels were designed to emphasize the citrusiness of the beer by featuring a cartoon version of myself riding a unicorn and jucing an orange on the giggling unicorn’s horn. It perfectly captures the existential silliness and fun of the Silly Sir brand.

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“Make sure the juice is dripping down the horn!” said Matti prematurely

I’m really quite proud of this beer. My brew club buddies enjoyed it, and I’ve gotten lots of positive feedback from friends and family. I’m always thinking of ways to improve my beers so I already have plans on how I could do things a little differently so as to extract even more juicy aromas from the hops. I’ve been home brewing for about a year, and while I’ve learned a great deal know I’m only just skimming the surface of what great beer can be.

Matti