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.