Category Archives: Home Brewer Profile

Home Brewer Profile – Stephen Freshnock

For this home brewer profile we talk with Stephen Freshnock.

Stephen Freshnock

Where are you from?
I have been living in Chicago for 6 years. Before that Kansas City.

What is your favorite brew pub in the area?
My loyalty is to Goose Island Clybourn but I am a huge fan of Piece’s IPA’s.

Do you focus on one style or do you mix it up depending on the conditions and mood?
I try to brew Seasonally, for instance I am doing a lot of Stouts, Porters and Browns for the colder weather at the moment. Sometimes I get inspired by a particular beer or concept

How long have you been brewing and what made you decide to start?
3 years. As I got more into beer culture I kept reading about how many startup breweries began in the kitchen. Once I realized there was science involved, I was all about it.

Did anyone inspire you to start brewing?
Brandon Bosher’s (Bridges Brewery) showed me that you could make a pro caliber beer in the home. His Burnt Santa is a ridiculous recipe and he is doing a “More Burnt Santa” this year.

Would you mind giving us a run down of your brewing career to date?
I have never entered competitions but I am thinking about it this year.. maybe. This will be the second year I help with “Bridges Brewery“. Last year I did a Scotch Ale and a Golden Strong Ale, the Scotch Ale is coming back this year along with a Rye Stout.

Are there any brewers you look to or anyone you think is at the top of your list?
I think John Cutler at Piece really knows how to get hop flavor in his beers. Boulevard in Kansas City, MO for consistency. I challenge anyone who says they make a bad beer, plus they have the Smokestacks to compliment a solid session beer lineup. Three Floyd’s for really tweaking out beer styles without sacrificing drinkability and having a killer presentation with everything they do. Metropolitan Brewery for passion around their business. I am really inspired by the Twitter #homebrew community, too many of you to name but you all inspire me to keep it up.

How often do you brew? What days do you brew?
I brew weekly if weather allows. Monday and/or Friday as I work weekends. I am always looking for people to come by and help out. I will feed you homebrew.

What are you brewing with?
I currently have a Sanford and Son gravity system that is lovingly called “The Ghetto Voltron”. 12 gallon cooler style mash tun, 5 gal cooler style HLT, an old chair, milk crate, propane burner, 10 gallon Kettle and 5 gallon kettle. It’s not pretty to look at, the only button is on the “aim n’ flame” but i have been told it makes decent beer.

I really believe that process not equipment makes great beer. You can have an automated brew sculpture but without the correct processes and knowledge you will be broke and still making shitty beer.

I know a lot of home brewers end up building their own equipment. Do you have any untraditional brewing equipment that you won’t find at a home brew shop?
I am great at ideas but horrible at execution. I once tried to build a “Lager chamber” that would recirculate air over ice cylinders. It worked for about a week, and then I ponied up the cash for a proper freezer and temp controller.

Can you tell us about the first beer you ever brewed, what was it and how did it come out?
German Wheat. Under attenuated, sickly sweet but drinkable.

What was the last thing you brewed?
Today I brewed a Rye Stout. I am under the assumption most beer styles improve with Rye in the grain bill.

Anything in the works you would like to share?
I am brewing a Coffee Porter with coffee from “Star Lounge“. Going to cold brew and add it to secondary. This would be my first time brewing with coffee. Hoping to do several lagers in the new year. I made two last year that I felt could have been better.

Do you do all grain or extract?
I am a big all grain champion. I did two extract batches and jumped to all grain. Would you rather have biscuits made from lard by Grandma or Pillsbury from the can?

What type of yeast do you use and how do you maintain your culture?
I love US-05 and US-04 dry yeast. They are easy to pitch, fast and effective. I only use liquid yeast when looking for that specific character, like Belgian’s. Regardless of what yeast you use, pitching the right amount and proper aeration will really make the difference.

What about hops… do you use whole or pellet hops? Why?
I prefer plugs or whole hops whenever possible. They do a great job of filtering out break materials in your kettle and you can judge the character much better than pellets IMO.

Do you do any sort of collaborations with other home brewers in the area?
I take part in the Bridges Media Holiday beers. This is the second year I will be brewing for them. I have a project on hiatus with “Blake @fermentus“. We are both working on an Imperial “SLOVAK” Pils in celebration of our shared heritage.

Are you part of any home brewers club or organizations?
Not at the moment but I have been threatening to attend a “North Side Home Brewers” meeting. At the moment I strictly brew for my #gents.

Any plans to do this as more than just a hobby?
I hope to make this a career. I love the idea of smaller brew pubs and production breweries that brew for the community. I am inspired by all the small breweries in the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic that are just now coming back to life. They are brewing styles that were forgotten during occupation and revitalizing beer culture in a land where for the longest time only one beer style existed.

Do you have any tips or words of wisdom for anyone looking to brew?
Brew often, people like free beer. Read and ask questions. You are going to make bad beer and phenomenal beer. Every brew will teach you something new. Stay on top of your processes. DONT CUT CORNERS! Most importantly SHARE your brew with uneducated beer drinkers.

Be sure to check out Stephen’s blog at http://freshbrewlog.blogspot.com/ or follow him on twitter http://twitter.com/SlovakBrewer/ for all kind of great updates.

Home Brewer Profile – Ryan Merritt

For this home brewer profile we talk with Ryan Merritt.

Ryan Merritt

Where are you from?
Originally I’m from the heart of it all- Ohio, but I have been living in Chicago for the last seven years.

What is your favorite brew pub in the area?
Whichever one I find myself in at that moment. I do appreciate that there is a wide choice of brew pubs here in Chicago. It’s kind of like asking someone to choose their favorite child. Ok, it’s Goose Island. It’s synonymous with Chicago and their food is as good as their brew.

Do you focus on one style or do you mix it up depending on the conditions and mood?
I definitely tend to brew the styles I prefer to drink, mostly ales, big ales. I am currently working through the Brewing Classic Styles book to better understand each style and what they bring to the glass.

How long have you been brewing and what made you decide to start? Did anyone inspire you to start brewing?
I have only been brewing for about 8 months now, but I completed my 16th brew this weekend. I had been talking about brewing on and off for a while with an old college buddy, but it was my wife who brought me home a copy of “How to Brew” and a commercial beer kit that actually ignited my current addiction.

Would you mind giving us a run down of your brewing career to date?
It will be ashort trip. I started with an off the shelf commercial beer kit and made a few examples from their catalog. They turned out fairly well, but I knew I could make better beer. From there I invested in some dedicated gear and starting doing some full boil extract kits eventually with steeping specialty grains. After that, I started using the Brewing Classic Styles as a guide and picking up my ingredients fresh from a local brew supply store. With each subsequent batch I would up the ante of the previous batch with a new piece of equipment or technique. My last handful of brews have been all-grain, batch sparged, stir-plated starter, immersion chilled, and keged. I primarily dispense out of a dual tapped kegerator, but I do have bottles stashed in every nook-and-cranny I can find. Seriously.

Is there any brewers you look to or anyone you think is at the top of your list?
Well, I think I have to mention Sam from Dogfish Head. They are cutting edge, and a super inspiring brewery to watch. Those guys have no fear. I’m a huge fan of Jeremy’s work over at Founders and the brewers at Three Floyd’s. On the home brewing side I have to say I really have learned so much from listening to Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer.

How often do you brew? What days do you brew?
I brew about once every other week, typically on Saturdays but every once in a while a mid-week brew session is in order.

What are you brewing with? I know a lot of home brewers end up building there own equipment. Do you have any untraditional brewing equipment that you won’t find at a home brew shop?
I am in the initial stages of using a programmable microcontroller to build my own spectrophotometer to output the SRM of my beer samples. It combines two of my hobbies. Well, I guess that would be more of my brewing obsession swallowing one of my other hobbies.

Can you tell us about the first beer you ever brewed, what was it and how did it come out?
My first beer ever was an American Blonde Ale and it came out “drinkable”. It was a hit with the fans of the American Macro breweries. I was happy that there were no casualties, but ultimately I knew I could brew something better.

What was the last thing you brewed?
A Pumpkin Spice Ale. It is currently in primary. I’ve been hearing some cool stories of people fermenting/conditioning part of their Pumpkin Ale in an actual hollowed out pumpkin. If I can get my hands on any decently fresh gourds, the plan is to do something along those lines.

Anything in the works you would like to share?
I have been brainstorming more ways of combining two of my current hobbies- programming microcontrollers and brewing. In addition to the spectrophotometer, I have some ideas about using a floating wireless thermometer to both control my heat source and alert me to key temperature steps throughout the brewing process.

Do you do all grain or extract?
I’ve been doing all-grain batches for the last couple of months. After completing my first all-grain batch, I immediately thought “That’s it?” and regretted not jumping into it even earlier. Don’t be afraid of all-grain.

What type of yeast do you use and how do you maintain your culture?
I typically use a new Wyeast Smack Pack and stir plate up a starter. I’ve harvested a couple of yeast slurrys but I haven’t really done much second-gen or beyond yeast work yet.

What about hops… do you use whole or pellet hops? Why?
I’ve only used pellet hops so far. I thought I had a line on some fresh whole hops in the area to make a wet hopped beer this harvest, but sadly it did not pan out. Pellet hops are great from a storage and utilization standpoint. At least that is what I tell myself.

Do you do any sort of collaborations with other home brewers in the area?
I’ve been doing some home brew trading with a few brewers. We trade up when we get the chance and give each other feedback. It’s a super important part of my brewing since I feel that my co-workers and friends that I give free samples to may have a conflict of interest in giving any critical reviews.

Are you part of any home brewers club or organizations?
I am a member of the AHA, subscribe to BYO and Zymurgy magazines, and I consume most online brewing resources from podcasts to message boards. In addition I do try to make it to the local beer events. Sheffields has been putting on some great events lately in the Chicago area.

Any plans to do this as more than just a hobby?
It currently is much more than a hobby, it is an obsession. I just don’t currently have any plans to recoup my costs. Who knows where life will lead though.

Do you have any tips or words of wisdom for anyone looking to brew?
If you have the interest, start today. You won’t regret it. Like my great-grandad tells me, you aren’t going to learn how to do it any younger.

Be sure to check out Ryan’s beer photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/rnast/ or follow him on twitter http://twitter.com/Rnast/ for all kind of great updates.

Home Brewer Profile – Barry Masterson

For this home brewer profile we talk with Barry Masterson.

Barry1

Where are you from?
I’m from Dublin, Ireland originally, but have been living in Münster, Germany since March 2008.

What is your favorite brew pub in the area?
The city of Münster only has one operating brewery left, and that’s Pinkus Müller, an organic brewery that also ships to the US. I like the old tap room there with its big oak beams and about a hundred years of graffiti engraved into the tables. I’ll class it as a brewpub as the copper is right next to the tap room. There are other brewpubs in the area, but they’re more your typical German brewpub selling a helles and a dunkel, with varying quality, and I’ll tend to visit these in the summer when it’s nice to sit in a beer garden and have lunch there.

Do you think the image of American beer has changed over the years? Or do most people still think of American beer as just Bud, Miller, Coors…
Yes, I certainly have, but you have to bear in mind that I’m usually surrounded by beer fans, or at least I drag them along with me. When I first moved to Germany I was all too aware of the limitations I would have on my choice of beer. As I mentioned, it’s very difficult to find non-German beer outside of specialist bars. So when I turn to someone and tell them that the US produces some of the most interesting beers in the world, it took some convincing. Indeed, most people in Germany would associate the US with the fizzy yellow… liquid, ironically not realising that the vast bulk of German beer is not too far from that in the blandness stakes.

But not everyone thinks like that. As about half the beers I brew follow the American Pale Ale mould, I began to convert a group of people in the office, and the odd trip to California gave us more opportunities to crawl as many beer types as we could. It’s highly enjoyable breaking down preconceptions, and while we don’t do it as often as we should, we do have tasting sessions in the office where we bring along beers we picked up in our travels, or I bring in new batches of brew, and we sit around and have fun talking beer and stuff. I think it’s great that these guys have open minds and don’t subscribe to the “German beer is best” mentality. I’m of the mind that no country is best, as everyone has different tastes, and every country produces more than a fair share of crap beer. But still, I like to keep an open mind and take beers as they come, but it’ll take me a while to convert the rest of Germany!

How do you think the Irish or German home brewer differs from the American?
I don’t know any German home brewers, yet, so I can’t say for sure. But I do think home brewers have more in common than differences. I like to think that they all love the art of making their own beer, the journey of discovery in experimenting with new or unusual ingredients, and the willingness to share and enjoy each others beer.

As far as differences go, I get the impression that the American home brew scene is more competition-oriented than in Ireland. There’s only one competition that I know of, and IrishCraftBrewer.com, the home brewing community I am most closely associated with, doesn’t run it. We tend more towards big drinking, I mean tasting sessions, to just share experiences and get feedback. Perhaps competition would help to finely hone peoples skills, but I think the lack of also means people are not so concerned with style conformity, as defined by some central body. It’s give and take.

Do you focus on one style or do you mix it up depending on the conditions and mood?
In terms of drinking, I definitely mix it up, and there’s no type of beer that I won’t try twice. It also depends where I am. If I’m travelling I try to stick local. The thing about living in Germany is that despite the thousands of beers available, they’re in a fairly limited range of styles, and it’s almost impossible to get non-German beer, so I take every opportunity I can to get the more exciting British, Belgian, Dutch (yes, I said Dutch, think De Molen) or American beers, not to mention the great craft beers coming out of Ireland. To get an idea of what I’m drinking, my blog exposes all…

How long have you been brewing and what made you decide to start? Did anyone inspire you to start brewing?
I started brewing around late 2006. An old friend of mine used to make kit beers about 10 years before that, with mixed results. While sitting at the bar in The Porterhouse, Dublin, he suggested that we try our hand at it. I wasn’t convinced, as I remembered his attempts all those years ago, but we did it, starting by doing extract brews in my kitchen. It was a social thing more than anything, and was a great excuse to get together every few weeks, with other friends also joining.

Would you mind giving us a run down of your brewing career to date?
Well, myself and my buddy Kieron started around late 2006 with extract brewing. It was hard to get ingredients in Ireland at the time, as the last bricks-and-mortar homebrew shop had closed a couple of years beforehand. We had to look to the UK or Belgium for ingredients, and also for advice in forums and such. By Christmas 2006 I had decided to take the plunge and start an Irish site, and at the same time found a small group of Irish home brewers on a forum started by another Irish home brewer. I met with Séan Billings, the chap who was running the forum, to discuss my ideas, and out of that, on the 17th of March 2007 (St. Patrick’s day was coincidental!) we launched www.IrishCraftBrewer.com. That’s when things really kicked off. From a small group of about 20 in the beginning we now have about 500 members, about 90 of whom are very active, and several homebrew suppliers have opened up business in Ireland since then.

As a community, ICB helped me, and all active members I hope, become better brewers as we have regular monthly meet-ups for tasting each others beers and providing constructive criticism. It’s one of the things I really miss since leaving Ireland.

As far as my own brewing goes, I switched to all grain brewing in 2008 and haven’t looked back. I mostly brew highly hopped ales of the American variety, simply because I can’t get enough hop driven beers here, but I also experiment a lot with the likes of smoked porters, barley wine, spiced ales, trying single hop beers with varieties I’ve never tried and such.

There are definitely some things I cannot do, and need to change that, mostly relating to temperature control. I really want to start lagering beers properly. However that’s going to have to wait till we decide where we’re going to live and have the room to accommodate my brewing fantasies!

Are there any brewers you look to or anyone you think is at the top of your list?
That’s a tough one. I’m hard pressed to even name a favourite beer, as my tastes change all the time. I think the Irish craft brewers don’t get enough light shone on them, so I’ll have to say Galway Hooker, simply because they broke the mould with their Galway Hooker Pale Ale at a time when most of the Irish craft brewers were making a stout, a red ale and a lager. And to be clear, a Hooker is a type of ship found in the west of Ireland, not that this stopped the lads using the other meaning for tongue-in-cheek advertising slogans!

There are so many inspirational people out there doing innovative things and creating amazing beers, I can’t even begin to make a real list.

How often do you brew? What days do you brew?
That varies a lot. If my wife and son go away to visit family, I’m brewing! Generally at the weekend, and in the case of last weekend, I did two brews, an Imperial Stout with a portion of peat-smoked malt from a Scottish distillery and a pale ale made with wild hops I gathered in the neighbourhood.

What are you brewing with? I know a lot of home brewers end up building their own equipment. Do you have any untraditional brewing equipment that you won’t find at a home brew shop?
Over in Europe most people use electricity for home brewing, so my biggest investment was a 2kW stainless steel boiler. I wish I’d gotten one a little more powerful, but it does a good job. I made my own picnic cooler mash tun and immersion wort chiller, but apart from that I reckon I’ve pretty much standard gear. I ferment in plastic, as it’s easier for me to handle than glass. During the summer I brew in the kitchen, but then have to carry the fermenter down to the cellar where it’s a perfect 19 Centigrade, so lugging 25 litres of wort down 2 flights of stairs is not conducive to glass or even stainless. When we move (whenever that’ll be!) I’ll be ensuring I have an out-building for brewing and will finally get temperature control sorted!

Can you tell us about the first beer you ever brewed, what was it and how did it come out?
I think it was a clone recipe for Old Speckled Hen. We’d bought the Clone Brews book for inspiration and reckoned we’d go with a tried and tested recipe to begin with, as we really weren’t sure what was going on with all this malt extract and hops. To be honest, I can’t remember what it was like. Clearly it wasn’t awful, as I know I’d have remembered that, and probably wouldn’t be still brewing today. Pretty soon after we were making Belgian strong ales and American IPAs based on our own recipes. I think experimenting teaches us a lot about the ingredients we work with.

What was your favorite clone you brewed?
I have to admit that my former brew buddy and I only attempted to clone a couple of beers based on published recipes when we started out, and after that we just made it up as we went along. I like the idea of reading clone recipes for beers I know, as it helps give a feel for what might go into making that beer, but in my experience, the ones we made were nowhere near the original!

I accidentally made something that I thought was close to one of my favourite beers, Clotworthy Dobbin, at least in terms of flavour, if not the wonderfully thick body that beer has. I have since tweaked the recipe twice, but think I moved away from what I thought I had. Let’s just say it’s one of my few recipes that is a work in progress, and probably always will be.

What was the last thing you brewed?
Just last weekend was a double brew for an Imperial Stout and a Wild-Hopped Pale Ale. The Stout was planned to be about 10% ABV, but I’d never used so much grain in my system, and my efficiency really suffered. Normally I’m in the 80-85% region, but htis really killed me and dropped to 60%. As a result, I’ll be getting something about 7.4%, I hope. But that’s ok. It was a lesson learned, and it’s the flavour that’s most important at this point. As for the wild hopped ale, I got my usual 85% efficiency, but as it was made with wild hops, I have no idea how bitter or what flavour profile they’ll bring. Can’t wait to try it!

Anything in the works you would like to share?
Nothing planned, but then I seldom plan very far in advance, with the exception of the last two brews which definitely took some planning. Mostly because of some peat-smoked malt coming from a brewer in the UK (Ramsgate Brewery, the owner of which was very kind to send me some peat-smoked malt after an on-line exchange about one of their beers) and having to process the wild hops.

Do you do all grain or extract?
All grain now, although I do have some bags of DME left, and I have used it to top up the gravity on a barley wine I made last year, inspired by Sierra Nevada Bigfoot I had a 2007 bottle in October 2008 and it was really nice). It’s nearly ready to drink!

What type of yeast do you use and how do you maintain your culture?
I started off using Wyeast smack packs, but mostly use dried yeast now, with US-05 and S-04 being my staple. I will use other yeasts if I’m looking for a particular character, but the way I see it, I’m still learning, and by keeping the yeast constant I’m at least getting to know the subtleties of the other ingredients first. Of course I’ll never stop learning!

What about hops… do you use whole or pellet hops? Why?
I use pellets initially because I thought they were easier to store. In actual fact, I learned to brew using pellets, and I find my system deals with them better than with whole hops. I do a manual whirlpool after cooling, and for most beers this keeps the crud away from the outlet. For hugely hopped beers I might use a hop sock. I don’t have a hop strainer, so whole hops will clog my system unless I use a hop sock for them also. I don’t use whole hops often, but if I did I’d start thinking about adding something to my equipment to allow me to deal with them more efficiently.

Do you do any sort of collaborations with other home brewers in the area?
I did in Ireland, but have yet to meet another home brewer in Germany. I’ve been talking to a brewer in Dortmund, and there have been suggestions of doing a guest brew for some time, but I really don’t hold any hopes for that!

Are you part of any home brewers club or organizations?
I already mentioned IrishCraftBrewer.com above, and I am still heavily involved there, albeit at a distance. I take care of the website also, so that keeps my fingers in. I have yet to meet a German home brewer, but from what I have heard there are plenty about. I also heard that some meet up in a bar I was in last week, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for them. I’ll be really eager to see what styles they make, and whether they spit on the Reinheitsgebot like I do.

Barry2

Any plans to do this as more than just a hobby?
I found out recently that as of 2006 you no longer have to hold a Braumeister qualification to start a brewery in Germany. This turned on a dim light bulb in my head, as till then I reckoned the sheer expense and time required to get such a qualification meant there was no point in even day-dreaming. Of course it’s nice to dream, but I’m not sure I have the business acumen to do so. Maybe I’ll change my mind if I get tired of my job!

Do you have any tips or words of wisdom for anyone looking to brew?
Brewing looks complicated to a beginner, and the jargon and scope of ingredients can be over-whelming. In actual fact, it’s really simple, and people have been doing it for a long, long time, well before any of the science and jargon ever existed. So I say just do it! Make it a social thing. Have fun with your friends and family. Experiment, and most importantly, make the beers that you like, and share them.

Be sure to check out Barry’s blog http://thebittenbullet.blogspot.com/ or follow him on twitter http://twitter.com/BarMas/ for all kind of great updates.

Home Brewer Profile – Joel Mahaffey

For this home brewer profile we talk with Joel Mahaffey.

Joel Mahaffey

Where are you from?
Depends on how far back you want to go. I grew up mostly in Virginia Beach as a Navy brat, went to college in Pennsylvania, and then moved to Washington D.C. for 2 years until I decided to pack my bags and move to Maine. I’ve been in Maine for 8 years now, which is awesome.

What is your favorite brew pub in the area?
It’s not really close, but I love Gritty’s in Freeport, Maine. It’s 120 miles away, but it’s a favorite pit-stop when traveling out-of-state. They have two cask ales on at all times, which is a novelty up here.

Do you focus on one style or do you mix it up depending on the conditions and mood?
I’ve been mixing it up for a long time, but I’m now trying to repeat a few of them to improve on my recipes.

How long have you been brewing and what made you decide to start?
I’ve been brewing for about six years. My brother-in-law started before me, and got me hooked on the idea. It began as a money saving hobby, but has developed into so much more.

What are you brewing with?
I have a 10.5Gal boil pot which I also use as a mash tun, a 6Gal pot that I use for heating on the side or to continue to pull runnings as I begin the boil, etc. I use 5 Gallon buckets for sparging (Papazian’s Zapap Lauter Tun). I’d like to build a cooler mash/lauter tun next year, as I hit the capacity of my 5Gal buckets for grain sparging 3 times this year. The buckets were a cheap way to get into all-grain, as I already had them from my first kit.

I know a lot of home brewers end up building there own equipment. Do you have any untraditional brewing equipment that you won’t find at a home brew shop?
I made my own wort-chiller from parts at Home Depot, and have 3 benches that I made which stack well for sparging, but that’s as fancy as I get.

Did anyone inspire you to start brewing?
My brother-in-law, Mike, got me going, but Charlie Papazian was there for the “Don’t worry, have a homebrew” philosophy that has gotten me through whenever I felt unsure.

Would you mind giving us a run down of your brewing career to date?
I began with very simple recipes from the True Brew Handbook (all extract), and did that happily for a while, diving into kits for a couple years. Then I bought Papazian’s Complete Joy of Homebrewing, and that changed my world. I began partial mash brews, and began to experiment, changing recipes in his book, but always using one for a base. I began to get comfortable having a recipe and going to my local homebrew shop, finding out that they didn’t have half the ingredients I needed, and substituting half of them out, or going for something else with the help of the homebrew advisor.

I brewed for several years like this, and all this time, brewing had been a hobby that I would indulge in 2-3 times a year. I drank largely commercial beers, and over this time, my knowledge and exposure to beer increased. This was the rise of craft brewing, and living in Maine, we didn’t get many out-of-state craft beers, but Maine craft brewing became more and more popular. Within the last 2 years, craft beers have become very popular in the state, and there is a fantastic selection of good beers, even at the gas station or the supermarket. Why is this important? Because these amazing new beers I was exposed to drove my desire to brew better beer. The last strike against extract brewing for me was a Russian Imperial Stout, where the extract and hops necessary to hit the mark put a major dent in my wallet. This was no longer a cost-effective hobby. My beers were getting complicated and expensive, and I wanted to figure out a way to make it more economical to brew my own beer. I wanted to be able to drink /mostly/ my beer now. I talked with my homebrew shop, and he advised me to switch to all-grain.

I couldn’t believe that it would be cheaper to brew all-grain. Didn’t you need a ton of equipment for that? He broke it down for me, and gave me the baseline cost of a 1.050 batch of beer, and I couldn’t believe you could pull that off for $20. I was in.

I began all-grain brewing this spring, and after a rough first-batch, it’s been amazing. I’ve made a LOT of beer. I just made my 13th 5Gal batch of AG beer in 6 months, and every one is better. I’ve been focusing on my process, and I change something every time I brew to make it easier, cleaner, and more efficient.

Are there any brewers you look to or anyone you think is at the top of your list?
Charlie Papazian is a big influence, as I’ve said before, and I recently discovered Jamil Zainasheff’s podcast, which I occasionally turn to for a nugget of knowledge. I have some favorite commercial brews, but mostly I like to try them because they give me ideas for my next batch of homebrew. Sam Caliglione reminds me that you can try anything once, and sometimes it’s amazing.

How often do you brew? What days do you brew?
I try to brew about every other weekend, and I prefer to brew on Saturday morning.

Can you tell us about the first beer you ever brewed, what was it and how did it come out?
The first brew I ever made was an american pale ale, the “First Recipe” from the True Brew Handbook. It’s all extract, and at the time, I thought it came out very well.

What was the last thing you brewed?
The last thing I brewed doesn’t fit into any clear category that I know of. It’s a recipe I made came up with this summer when browsing for ingredients, with a slight adjustment to the second batch. It’s a complex malt profile with a hopping rate of an IPA. IRA or double red ale? Maybe. But I like it.

Do you do all grain or extract?
All-grain.

What type of yeast do you use and how do you maintain your culture?
I have been using Wyeast London Ale II recently. It’s an English ale yeast with a very fruity aroma and flavor. I get samples from the local microbrew, which makes it an easy choice, but it also works very well for the beers I like to make.

What about hops… do you use whole or pellet hops? Why?
Well, I like the punch that you get from pellet hops, which is lucky since nothing else is available. I’ve made the mistake (once) of dry-hopping with pellet hops, and it makes a horrible mess. I think I’ll only every use whole/leaf hops for that in the future.

Do you do any sort of collaborations with other home brewers in the area?
No, but I would love to give it a try!

Are you part of any home brewers club or organizations?
There isn’t one within at least an hour’s drive, but I’ve put some thought into getting one started.

Any plans to do this as more than just a hobby?
It’s already an obsession, but it could be fun to be compensated for it.

Do you have any tips or words of wisdom for anyone looking to brew?
It’s easier than you think.

Be sure to check out Joel’s blog http://www.mainebrews.com/ or follow him on twitter http://twitter.com/mainebrews for all kind of great updates.

Home Brewer Profile – Joe Abella

For this home brewer profile we talk with Joe Abella.

Where are you from?
I live in Oak Park, IL

What is your favorite brew pub in the area?
Not a “brew pub” per se, but the Avenue Ale House in Oak Park is awesome. The food is great, lots of TVs for whatever games are on, and the craft beer list is impressive and features several different brews each month.

Do you focus on one style or do you mix it up depending on the conditions and mood?
I’ve been making what I like, and what I think fits the season. Over the summer, I made a Kolsch and a Witbier, but for the fall, I have an Imperial Red Ale, and my own Autumn Amber Spiced Ale.

How long have you been brewing and what made you decide to start? Did anyone inspire you to start brewing?
I brewed my first time about 8 years ago because I mentioned that it might be fun to my girlfriend at the time. She bought me a Mr. Beer Kit. Based on that, I gave it up, but then another friend talked to me about his homebrewing hobby about 3 years ago.

Would you mind giving us a run down of your brewing career to date?
I started with that Mr. Beer kit. Once I was introduced to partial mash, and all grain brewing, I was addicted. It was around the same time that I had bought my home in Oak Park which just happened to have a spare fridge in the basement. That, along with an old concrete sink, and a spacious work room, made homebrewing that much easier for me.

Since then, I’ve built my own 3 tier all-grain rig, built a bar on which I have 4 taps of homebrew coming from my kegerator and have brewed several dozen beers.

Is there any brewers you look to or anyone you think is at the top of your list?
Dogfish Head comes to mind from an innovation standpoint, and I just visited Lagunitas while out on the west coast. But I also try to keep up with some of the local craft brewers around the midwest like Goose Island, Three Floyd’s, New Glarus, Bell’s, Great Lakes, etc. I follow a lot of breweries and homebrewers (and Hop Cast) on Twitter and/or Facebook, which helps to see what’s going on in the beer world.

How often do you brew? What days do you brew?
I might brew based on any number of factors like, if my kegs are running low, I want to get a few seasonal beers ready for a particular time of year, or recently my neighbors were hosting a party and asked me if I would bring some of my beers over. They knew to give me some advanced notice and the beer I brought seemed to be a hit. So, it really depends on my supply and demand for how often. But, I usually keep enough supplies on hand that I can brew something. I can brew a batch nearly any night of the week, but I sometimes I prepare for a big brew day on a Saturday, when me, or me and some buddies, will brew a few batches together.

You mentioned the 3 tier all-grain rig, could you tell us a little more about that?
I say “rig” becuase it’s on wheels which makes it easy to move out of the way or pull out to the backyard if the weather is right. It’s definitely an original – it looks like a grown-up’s Erector Set.

Do you use any other untraditional or home built brewing equipment that you won’t find at a home brew shop?
I’m planning on building an automated grain mill using an old ceiling fan motor if I ever get around to it. And I’ve also built my own tap line cooling system. It uses a fish tank pump and RV coolant in a bath within the kegerator’s freezer. This system allows me to run the coolant alongside the tap lines to keep them cool, and reduce foaming.

Can you tell us about the first beer you ever brewed, what was it and how did it come out?
I don’t really remember the first beer I brewed. Those” Mr. Beer Days” produced some barely drinkable beers, and I’ve had a few since that just didn’t work out quite right. I remember the first beer I kegged myself was a partial mash kit for a Steam Ale. I was really happy with how it came out, and I continue to make that style a couple times a year.

What was the last thing you brewed?
I just brewed a clone of Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. It’s my third time brewing that recipe. I even started growing Centennial hops in my backyard so I can have more on hand. It’s really a simple IPA recipe – 2 types of malt, 1 type of hops, American Ale yeast, but I enjoy it a lot.

Anything in the works you would like to share?
I’m planning on making another hard cider this fall. I made a small 3 gallon test batch last fall, using cold pastuerized apple cider that I bought at an organic grocery store. I bottled it, and the carbonation wasn’t quite right, probably from a lack of residual yeast due to cooling it down for clarity before bottling. But, the flavor was good, so this year, I’m going to try to get fresh pressed apple juice, and will make enough to keg it.

Do you do all grain or extract?
All grain for the past two years.

What type of yeast do you use and how do you maintain your culture?
I haven’t actually tried to maintain my own yeast cultures, but I have poured freshly cooled wort onto another batch’s yeast cake… I’m not sure I’d do that again though. Mostly, I use Wyeast packets.

What about hops… do you use whole or pellet hops? Why?
Pellet hops for the boil mostly, plug or whole hops for fermentation. Mainly just to keep stray pieces of hops from making into someone’s glass. Another thing I’ve done recently is add an ounce of hops, in a grain bag, after racking to a corny keg. It adds some fresh hop flavor that continues to evolve over the course of the time I’m drinking the beer. And it’s something you can’t do if you bottle your beer.

Do you do any sort of collaborations with other home brewers in the area?
Absolutely, I have a friend that lives in a small apartment, but who has a small kegerator. So, we brew and ferment his beers at my place, then we keg them and he takes them home. He leaves a little of the process in my hands, but repays me with beer, so it works out. I have another friend that lives up in Libertyville, and we’ve brewed together a few times.

Are you part of any home brewers club or organizations?
No, but I try to go to a few events every year, whether it’s the Sam Adams Longshot day in Chicago, or the Goose Island Night of the Living Ales that some of the local groups promote.

Any plans to do this as more than just a hobby?
My two brewing buddies and I joke about it. I’ve been able to talk to a few people who are either interning/working at breweries, or who have started their own microbrew/pub and it seems like something I’d want to do. But the start-up resources would be a challenge.

Do you have any tips or words of wisdom for anyone looking to brew?
Keep really good records, or better yet, get some brewing software – it can open up a lot of options for you like formulating and brewing a truly unique recipe that people really like. Nothing I’ve done with my brewing has made me happier than that experience.

Thanks Joe for taking the time to be interviewed. You can learn more about Joe and his brewing process if you follow him on twitter, twitter.com/jabella72.

Home Brewer Profile – Bill Kregel

For this profile we talk with Milwaukee home brewer Bill Kregel. Bill isn’t on twitter but his wife Katie is, twitter.com/kpkregel. So if you have any questions for him you are welcome to ask her or leave them here.

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Where are you from?
Milwaukee, WI

What is your favorite brew pub in the area?
Milwaukee Ale House

Do you focus on one style or do you mix it up depending on the conditions and mood?
I mix it up depending upon the season – IPAs, Pilsners and Belgians in the spring/summer and Ambers, Porters and Stouts when it gets cold. My focus has mostly been ales so far, but I’ve also brewed the occasional lager.

How long have you been brewing and what made you decide to start? Did anyone inspire you to start brewing?
I’ve been brewing for close to two years. I told my wife that I wanted a book on beer but instead for Christmas my in-laws got me ‘How to Brew” by John Palmer along with a gift certificate to Northern Brewer. After reading the book I was hooked!

Would you mind giving us a run down of your brewing career to date?
I started brewing in January of 2008 and have been working to improve technically and style-wise with each beer I brew. I’ve brewed 26 beers so far. My first 6 were extract with grain and on the 7th batch I went all grain and haven’t gone back since. Last year I started growing my own hops too. Since our yard is in the city and not very big I now have my parents and in-laws helping me grow too.

Is there any brewers you look to or anyone you think is at the top of your list?
Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer are definitely brewing icons that I’ve learned a lot from. Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head brews some crazy and excellent beers. His creativity is inspiring.

How often do you brew? What days do you brew?
I brew once to twice a month and I always brew on weekends due to the time involved with an all grain brew. I brew the most in the fall and spring and the least in the summer since the risk of infection of the batch is much higher with all the bugs in the summer.

What are you brewing with? I know a lot of home brewers end up building there own equipment. Do you have any untraditional brewing equipment that you won’t find at a home brew shop?
I brew in my garage using a keg that I converted into a brew kettle by sawing a whole in the top and installing a spigot on the side. I use a 72qt cooler for my mash tun. I have plans to make a 3 keggle set-up utilizing pumps and temp controllers but haven’t gotten to that yet. Since I keg all my beers in corny kegs I also bought a chest freezer on Craigslist and converted it into a refridgerator with temp controls. It can hold up to 8 corny kegs and some miscellaneous bottles. Eventually I’d like to create a bar in my basement and hook it up to taps.

Can you tell us about the first beer you ever brewed, what was it and how did it come out?
My first beer I ever brewed was an American Amber Ale extract kit from Northern Brewer. Considering it was my first batch it turned out very nicely. Looking back it was a little medicinal since I didn’t take steps to take the chlorine out of the water, but overall very drinkable.

What was the last thing you brewed?
A 12 gallon hop-bursted IPA using all of my own homegrown hops, which were Cascade, Sterling, Chinook and Centennial. My wife and I are huge hop heads.

Anything in the works you would like to share?
My next beers are going to be a Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter and a Breakfast Stout for the holidays.

Do you do all grain or extract?
All grain ever since the 6th batch. To me the difference is very noticeable and I love the control you have to change a beer when you mash all the grain yourself.

What type of yeast do you use and how do you maintain your culture?
I use both dry and liquid yeast. I only use dry yeast (Safale US-05 specifically) in a pale ale or IPA since that yeast does a great job and the hops are overall so dominant the yeast takes a back seat. I use liquid yeast cultures from Wyeast for the rest of my brews. There is an amazing variety of yeasts with the liquid cultures and although they take a little more work to use properly (ie…yeast starter) the results are well worth the effort.

What about hops… do you use whole or pellet hops? Why?
Both. I notice a better aroma with the whole hops and use them for dry hopping and aroma additions. For bittering hops I like to use pellet hops because they get better utilization and suck up less of the wort.

Are you part of any home brewers club or organizations?
My wife and I are members of Milwaukee Beer Barons.

Do you do any sort of collaborations with other home brewers in the area?
I’m a member of Milwaukee Beer Barons, but other than that no collaborations…yet!

Any plans to do this as more than just a hobby?
Maybe some day but getting started is a risky proposition.

Do you have any tips or words of wisdom for anyone looking to brew?
Jump in and get started! Start with an extract pale ale or IPA as the hops will hide most flaws. After you get more experience, move on to the more delicate styles. Two things every brewer must look into are water quality and what the mineral content of your water is because it’s the difference between making an average beer and a great beer. Secondly, invest in some type of temp control system for your fermentation. Keeping a consistent fermentation temp is very important. And don’t forget to do lots of “market research” to see what other breweries out there are doing!

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Home Brewer Profile – Joseph Lemnah

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Where are you from?
A small town just outside of Burlington, VT. Essex Junction.

What is your favorite brew pub in the area?
The not very local brewpub Stewarts Brewing is forty five minutes away up in Bear, DE. So, some of my favorites from back home are, The Alchemist, Zero Gravity at American Flatbread, and of course Vermont Pub & Brewery one of the original gangsters back in 1986.

Do you focus on one style or do you mix it up depending on the conditions and mood?
I Mix it up.  Many times I’m inspired by chefs and global flavors.  Using different grains, spices, and herbs is both challenging and rewarding.  I enjoy discovering what unusual fermentables taste like and how to use them.  What I brew is dependant on what inspires me more than anything.  Finding out about a citrus fruit grown here or a type of heirloom rice grown there. A spice I’ve never heard of.  Every day the world challenges brewers to brew and use the cornucopia of ingredients available the world over.

How long have you been brewing and what made you decide to start? Did anyone inspire you to start brewing?
I’ve been home brewing for a little over four years now.  Growing up in Vermont I was surrounded with craft beer.  Drinking Long Trail, Switchback, Otter CreekRock Art, and Magic Hat. Late Gen X’ers and early Gen Y’ers are the first generation to grow up in an America with beer choices. I developed an early appreciation for local products made by people in the community.  Beer being one of them. So I guess timing and location inspired me to start brewing.

Would you mind giving us a run down of your brewing career to date?
It was late 2006, I was twenty four years old and had been home brewing for a few months when realized that brewing might be it for me.  I was living in upstate NY at the time and went up and down the Hudson River valley looking for a job while also looking into the different brewing schools across the country. Lots of doors closed, but I got a job on the packaging line at a contract brewery, Olde Saratoga Brewing Co. in Saratoga Springs, NY opening empty cases and six packs by hand then stuffing the six packs in the cases.  There were paper cuts.  I expressed interest in moving into brewing from the beginning, sharing home brew and talking to the brewers about what the heck they were doing.  After months on packaging I moved into cellaring, learning how to CIP (clean in place) and sanitize tanks first. Wait, I think they taught me how to scrub floors and parts first, lots of floor scrubbing.  Then I learned how to harvest and pitch yeast, dry hop, filter and force carbonate.  During my time at Olde Saratoga Brewing I attended the American Brewers Guild, completing the five week residential Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering course.  After returning from brewing school I was trained in the brew house.  While at school I found out about the job board on Probrewer and saw a job for a brewing position at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery.  I applied, interviewed and a couple of months later I was hired and moved down there.  Just like that, and I’ve been there since.

Is there any brewers you look to or anyone you think is at the top of your list?
Patrick Rue- The Bruery, Jean Francois Gravel- Dieu du Ciel!, Matt Bryndilson- Firestone Walker, Ken Grossman- Sierra Nevada, Paul Saylor- Zero Gravity, Ron Jeffries- Jolly Pumpkin, John MaierRogue, and of course Charlie Papazian and Randy Mosher.

You have been working at Dogfish Head for about two years right?
It will be two years November 5th.

How’s working for them?
Working for a company like DFH is an honor.  To be a part of a company that has helped pave the way for the craft beer community to grow and take chances teaches me something new every day.  The brewers at the production facility in Milton are given the chance to go to the original DFH pub and brew whatever the heck they like.  I brewed a pumpernickel porter last year called Daily Wry.  It was pretty cool to get my beer reviewed on beer advocate.  Working in an atmosphere like DFH definitely inspires to create.

What is different working and brewing at Dogfish Head versus doing your own stuff at home?
The experiences are very different.  At DFH were knocking out every 3 to 4 hours, making 3,000 gallon batches all week, non stop, while working around dangerous chemicals and particulates as well as dangerous quantity’s of carbon dioxide.  We are focusing on consistency and flavor profiles of each batch and working to understand and control the processes to make more consistent beer.  While at home every batch is a test batch.

How often do you brew? Is it hard to find time with all the work brewing?
I’m Home brewing about once a week right now but I need to start brewing at least twice a week to keep up with the drinking habits of everyone that comes by.  I always have at least a couple draughts of homebrew on, up to five at once.

What are you brewing with? I know a lot of home brewers end up building there own equipment. Do you have any untraditional brewing equipment that you won’t find at a home brew shop?
It’s a pretty basic setup.  I have a hot liquor tank and a mash tun/kettle.  I mash into the mash tun and run off into marked plastic buckets.  Sparge from the hot liquor tank while running off using gravity.  Once I’ve collected the wort I dump the mash tun, a quick rinse and dump the wort in.  The only piece of equipment I’ve made so far is a grist case to hang above the mash tun during mash in so I can control the flow of water and grain while focusing on hydrating the crushed malt.  I’ve started building brewing stands for the back deck with plans of putting a burner on each.

Can you tell us about the first beer you ever brewed, what was it and how did it come out?
The first beer I ever home brewed was a brown ale extract kit.  The kit contained chocolate malt, crystal malt, and roasted barley to steep and a pound of brown sugar for the boil.  I used dry muntons yeast.  My friends liked the green apple flavor, but I knew that acetaldehyde was not a good thing.

What was the last thing you brewed?
At this moment I’m brewing a chocolate vanilla almost baltic porter.  The last five brews have been an oatmeal stout, a Bhutanese red rice brown ale, a summer and fall saison, and a cherry wood smoked porter.

Anything in the works you would like to share?
Next weekend I have plans to brew a pumpkin ale and ferment it inside a 7 gallon pumpkin using 4-5 pounds of sweet baby pumpkins roasted in the oven and added to the mash. Spiced with meadowsweet, and other fall spices in the boil. During cool down I plan on carving a pumpkin and prep it for fresh wort.  I’ll seal the top with wax and drill a hole for an air lock.

Do you do all grain or extract?
My first sixteen batches were extract.  Since then I have been doing all grain.  Today’s brew is batch fifty five.

What type of yeast do you use and how do you maintain your culture?
Whatever I can get my hands on.  I like blending yeastx, using dry and/or liquid.  I really enjoy both Wyeast and White Labs strains, especially: German Ale 1007 Wyeast, Saison Yeast 3724 Wyeast/WLP566 White Labs. Chico yeast liquid or dry is what I usually ferment with to keep at least one control. It’s a great neutral strain that allows the brewer to showcase whatever they want.  I will re use yeast up to three generations.  I really want to start brewing funky ales but I’m afraid of bringing the funk in house.  I would like to make a Kombuch-ale by just dumping a bottle of kombucha in some wort.

What about hops… do you use whole or pellet hops? Why?
I like using whole leaf hops in my home brew setup because with the false bottom it knocks out crystal clear wort.  Pellets really muddy what goes into the carboy, but I have to use pellets for all the hoppy beers I want to brew because the selection is so much better with pellet hops.

Do you do any sort of collaborations with other home brewers in the area?
I’ve collaborated with two other brewers at DFH recently.  Brent Baughman on two RyePA’s and an Imperial Stout. The pumpkin in a pumpkin beer is with Jon Talkington and we’ve also brewed a black wit together in the past.

Are you part of any home brewers club or organizations?
When I was in Saratoga Springs I joined the Saratoga Thoroughbrews.  It was a great experience getting critique from experienced homebrewers on my first dozen batches or so.  I haven’t joined any local homebrew clubs in Delaware yet but I will be teaching some upcoming homebrew classes at my local homebrew store.  We’re still working on the dates.

Do you have any tips or words of wisdom for anyone looking to brew?
Read and brew, brew and read. There is a small commitment with brewing.  You have to get some random equipment to start and/or you end up thinking you need it.  Either way pick up a brewing book, try some craft beer, brew with a friend if you can, think of your favorite beer and try to brew it.

Finally, when can the Hop Cast come out and get a special Dogfish Head tour?
Anytime…Cheers!

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You are welcome to email Joseph Lemnah with any questions to hopfentreader@gmail.com and be sure to check out his blog http://hopfentreader.blogspot.com or follow him on twitter http://twitter.com/HopfenTreader.

Home Brewer Profile – Charles Hall

For this home brewer profile we talk with Charles Hall.

Where are you from?
Raritan, NJ

What is your favorite brew pub in the area?
There are a few good places. The one I visit most frequently is Harvest Moon in New Brunswick. Other notable brewpubs in the area are Triumph in Princeton, J.J. Bitting in Woodbridge, and Long Valley Brewpub in Long Valley who recently won a medal for their Jake’s Lazy Porter at the GABF.

Do you focus on one style or do you mix it up depending on the conditions and mood?
Up until now I have been experimenting, only occasionally repeating recipes or styles. But over the winter months I plan to do just a few styles to work on making them better.

Did anyone inspire you to start brewing?
I didn’t know anyone who was doing it but a lot of friends were excited about the prospect of me making beer and they helped the cause.

How long have you been brewing and what made you decide to start?
I started brewing January 2009. Having recently turned 21 I was enthusiastically exploring craft beers. I soon started to wonder how these breweries were getting such complex and unique flavors. I did some research online and came across a lot of information on homebrewing and quickly assembled the necessary hardware to try it out myself.

Would you mind giving us a run down of your brewing career to date?
I wouldn’t call it much of a career as it’s been less than a year but I did one extract batch and then moved on to AG. I’ve done about 20 AG batches, and entered my first two competitions just a few weeks ago. I sent an APA and Hefeweizen to the FOAM cup in OK and the same APA and Hefeweizen in addition to an RIS to the Schooner competition in WI. To my my surprise I won Gold at Schooner for my APA which I am really excited about.

Are there any brewers you look to or anyone you think is at the top of your list?
Jamil is probably the most famous home brewer today and he is someone to look up to for sure as is Charlie Papazian who’s book helped me a lot. But there are also a few well respected guys and ladies on Homebrewtalk.com that have helped the community out a lot by sharing recipes and words of wisdom.

What are you brewing with?
I’m brewing All grain with a really basic setup. I do 3 gallon batches since I like to brew more that I can drink and give away. So I use a 5 gallon cooler, a huge grain bag and a turkey fryer. Instead of a manifold at the bottom of the cooler I simply line the cooler with the grain bag, mash in and close the lid. When the mash is done I lift up the bag and let it drip before I move the whole bag, grains and all, to my kettle where I have water ready for sparging. I then mix the grains, let them sit a while and repeat the process again before combing all of the sparge and first runnings together for my total pre-boil volume of about 3.75 gallons. It’s my take on the Australian Brew-in-a-Bag technique. After working out some process issues I have been able to consistently hit about 67% efficiency into the fermenter.

Are you bottling your beers?
Yep

How often do you brew? What days do you brew?
On average I brew every 2-3 weeks. I generally brew on a Saturday or Sunday starting early in the morning.

Can you tell us about the first beer you ever brewed, what was it and how did it come out?
My first beer was a Sierra Nevada Pale ale clone which I put together by looking at a few recipes online. It was extract, on my moms stove with her and my girlfriend running around for me trying to get everything done. The process was really overwhelming and confusing that first time but it was exciting and smelled great. It turned out ok but was really malty and when it warmed up tasted like a malt liquor. Not in the same class as SNPA for sure.

What was the last thing you brewed?
The last beer I brewed was Denny Conn’s Wry Smile which is a Rye IPA and supposed to be pretty famous in the community.

How did the Rye IPA turn out?
Not sure yet but I’ll let you know.

Anything in the works you would like to share?
I just bottled a barleywine I’m pretty excited about, half a gallon of it is aging on oak in a growler as an experiment. I actually did get my hands on some Citra hops which are the showcase of Sierra Nevada’s new Torpedo and are available in very limited quantities, I will probably do a SMaSH with those. Otherwise nothing fancy coming up, I’m going to brew my APA, Blonde, and Hefeweizen a few times over to try to get them really solid.

What type of yeast do you use and how do you maintain your culture?
I generally stick to Wyeast 1056 for most of my brews, obviously some of them require a specialized yeast like a Saison or Hefeweizen. I have experimented with yeast washing in the past, I will definitely be making use of it in the future. Nottingham dry yeast is always in the fridge as a backup and always works great for me, finishes low.

What about hops… do you use whole or pellet hops? Why?
I use both pellet and whole leaf. Pellet is better bang for your buck in the boil but I like whole leaf for aroma.

Are you part of any home brewers club or organizations?
No, there are some local clubs but I haven’t looked into joining any yet. I’m sure they are a valuable resource but for now the various message boards online have provided me with a lot of information.

Any plans to do this as more than just a hobby?
I think everyone thinks about it, I’m pretty young so anything is possible. Reading about the guys who have gone from homebrew to nano and micro sized commercial operations is exciting and inspirational. I have tried to get a position at several local breweries and brewpubs but with the economy like it is most places don’t seem to be chomping at the bit to bring an apprentice on board.

Do you have any tips or words of wisdom for anyone looking to brew?
Do it! Go to your local big box retailer buy a turkey fryer, it comes with a big pot for $35 and you can avoid the mess of sticky wort all over your stove. The jump to AG is easy, and the hands on experience is very rewarding when you crack open that first bottle.

Thanks Charles for taking the time to be interviewed. You can learn more about Charles and his brewing process if you follow him on twitter, twitter.com/magnj.

Home Brewer Profile – Andy Farley

For this home brewer profile we talk with Andy Farley. You can check out his site, www.beertastic.org/homebrew/ at or follow him on twitter, twitter.com/seeandyspin.

Where are you from?
Southwest Chicago suburbs to North Chicago suburbs to now downtown Chicago.

What is your favorite brew pub in the area?
Easily Piece Brewery and Pizzeria. For me it’s only a 5 minute blue line L ride to taste-bud fantasy land. Incredible beer, maybe even better pizza. On the sudsy front they brew top notch stuff across many styles, most notably the recent 2009 GABF winner Top Heavy. A growler of that will fix even your terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Do you focus on one style or do you mix it up depending on the conditions and mood?
I am a relative noobie to homebrewing, so none of my batches yet have really been the same style. In terms of focus, however, mine so far has been unabashedly American; aggressive hopping and all ales.

Did anyone inspire you to start brewing?
Inspire? Not entirely; I cast it more up to my curiosity. I did appreciate the guidance from homebrew authors like John Palmer and Charlie Papazian.

How long have you been brewing and what made you decide to start?
I have been brewing for ~6 months. One of my chemical engineering buddies at school mentioned off-hand that he was starting and it made me have an ‘ah ha! what the hell have I been waiting for?!’ moment. The tools/steps in brewing closely mirrored what I studied in the chemical engineering curriculum so it was interesting and exciting to see this new tasty connection. I’d been a beer nerd for a considerable time before hand.

Would you mind giving us a run down of your brewing career to date?
Starting in March 2009 it goes roughly like this: 1 month of unemployment with obsessive reading/studying, 4 months of extract brewing, then ~2 months and so on all-grain.

What are you brewing with? I know a lot of home brewers end up building there own equiment. Do you have any untraditional brewing equipment that you won’t find at a home brew shop?
I really enjoy the engineering aspect of homebrewing; again its what I studied in school and it really fits with the type of person I am. In order to brew on a small stovetop, I built a powerful electric ‘heatstick’ which uses a home water heater element to boil the wort. It is terrifying and awesome at the same time. I have also built a stir plate to prepare yeast starters (http://www.beertastic.org/homebrew/2009/dyi-stir-plate/). The most unique thing I have built is a custom fermentation temperature controller with the help of my dad. He happened to have some parts ‘laying around’ so I got a powerful tool for only a couple bucks. (http://www.beertastic.org/homebrew/2009/dyi-temperature-controller/).

Are there any brewers you look to or anyone you think is at the top of your list?
Commercially, I honestly don’t know brewers as well as I know the ‘brewery’. There are many I emulate or am influenced by including Three Floyds, Sierra Nevada, Dogfish and many many many others. Homebrewer-wise, I enjoy the support of people like Stephen and my local club, Northside Homebrewers Connection, that was started by Ted.

How often do you brew? What days do you brew?
I tend to brew whenever I can convince my financee to not kick my ass. We have a small place and the smell of the wort is pretty overwhelming. That makes it about every other weekend, either Saturday or Sunday.

Can you tell us about the first beer you ever brewed, what was it and how did it come out?
It was called Clusterfuck. Pale ale. 1 gallon batch. Only cluster hops. Liquid malt extract. War crime. I drank all 8 bottles and haven’t been the same since.

What was the last thing you brewed?
Right now I have my second all grain brew resting in the fermenter. It’s an IPA with 15% rye that I have named Every Time I Rye Pale Ale (after facemelting hardcore punk bank Every Time I Die). I also have a caramel cream ale (with 1 lb of homemade caramel tossed in) bottle conditioning; I am considering giving it only to people I hate…don’t know if age can improve this experiment.

Anything in the works you would like to share?
I am a little behind the seasonal schedule but I still plan on doing a pumpkin/holiday beer next. That will be followed by a ridiculously huge (bourbon? oak chip? oh yes.) imperial stout. After that I hope to maybe go into Belgians, wits.

Do you do all grain or extract?
Recently moved to all grain. Little more money to spend on equipment, little more time to spend on the brew day, but worth it.

What type of yeast do you use and how do you maintain your culture?
I pitch primarily with the American Chico strain (1056, Safale 05). It’s hardy, reliable and clean. I plan my brews in groups of 3 or 4 and repitch yeast from the primary fermenter that I have rinsed consecutively for each. Plan on trying out other strains ASAP.

What about hops… do you use whole or pellet hops? Why?
Primarily pellets in the boil because there is a wider variety available in that form. I prefer to use plugs or whole hops for dry hopping to reduce crap going into bottles. People do not like pulpy beer.

Do you do any sort of collaborations with other home brewers in the area?
This coming weekend will be my first. It’s a group brew for an exclusive contest for the Northside Homebrewers Connection run by Hamburger Mary’s.

Are you part of any home brewers club or organizations?
I am co-chair of the Northside Homebrewers Connection. If you live in Chicago and homebrew you’re invited. We’re young, passionate and not as smelly as the CBS. Check out http://groups.google.com/group/northside-homebrewers-connection/ for more. I also just joined the AHA. Can you say, discount card?

Any plans to do this as more than just a hobby?
Maybe for my midlife crisis. Or if I am so good someone will fund a brew pub for me to run.

Do you have any tips or words of wisdom for anyone looking to brew?
There is a lot of science and art in brewing. Don’t let either overwhelm you or outweigh the other. Oh but your first batch will probably suck; have brave/thirsty/already drunk friends.

Stop by Andy’s site or Twitter and say hi and tell him what your are drinking.