CARLSBAD — Paul Sangster first came to national prominence several years ago when he pioneered the firewall that keeps our computers safe from hackers.
Sangster’s ingenuity was recognized again last month at the National Homebrewers Competition in San Diego where he received the most medals, nine to be exact, in the first round of judging.
As a member of two local homebrewers’ clubs, QUAFF (Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity) and Barley Engineers, he has won more than 100 awards over the past 2-1/2 years.
At the National Homebrewers Competition, Sangster secured a gold medal in the bock category and silver in the English pale ale.
He also received the Ninkasi award. Named for the Sumerian Goddess of Beer, the Ninkasi is given to the brewer having the most wins in the final round of competition.
Perhaps not as prestigious, but popular nevertheless, his QUAFF club secured the coveted the 2011 “Pissoir d’Or” aka “Golden Urinal” award for bringing the most beer kegs to the conference.
Sangster comes by his gift naturally. In 1864 his great great grandfather, John Hauenstein of Minnesota, became one of the first 20 beer brewers in the United States.
“I think I’m predisposed to being a brewer,” Sangster says proudly, adding his protégé, Chris Stawney, won a silver medal in the India Pale Ale (IPA) category and a bronze in the Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer category in the first round.
“Paul was the first person to give me feedback on my very first beer,” Stawney remembers. “I’ve won quite a few awards myself and it’s definitely because of the tips and mentoring I’ve received from him.
“One of the most important things he taught me was temperature control of fermentation.”
Stawney added that Sangster was generous in sharing his knowledge of other technical aspects of the process.
“He’s very meticulous about everything he does,” he said. “With IPA, Paul rebrews the same beer and makes small adjustments to make it perfect. He’ll venture out and incorporate different varieties of hops in abundance. He likes to make bigger, hoppier beers as part of his own style.”
Stawney revealed why Sangster named his own brewery Double Overhead Brewing Company.
“He wants to convey that his are big, massive beers that are ready to crush you,” he said. “If a style of a brown ale is five to seven percent, he’ll make it nine percent. You wouldn’t notice extra alcohol. He makes hoppier beers. He also does dry hopping. That’s going to give a ton of aroma, and a lot of flavor. Paul does a lot of that.”
One of the highlights of the conference was “Pro Brewers Night” when contestants had the thrill of having their signature recipe replicated by a professional brewer. Mother Earth Brew Co. in Vista secured another award for Sangster with his “Vanilla Storm,” which combines vanilla beans with Kona and Sumatra coffee.
Sangster said he started brewing craft beer in 1992. He stopped in 1995, and then began getting interested again in homebrewing in 2006, particularly Belgium and German beers.
“I got more education and became curious about why beers were different,” he said. “Brewing is a combination of art and science. Art is knowing how to get different flavors. Sometimes I model beer on food — like chocolate cherry stout.
“Science is the hard part. Once you come up with an idea, you have to figure out how you are going to do it again.”
Sangster says his upcoming recipes will incorporate other ingredients right out of the kitchen pantry such as blackstrap molasses and blueberry puree.