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.

Hop Cast – Episode 56

Brad Stark joins Brad Chmielewski and Ken Hunnemeder for episode 56 of the Hop Cast. The first beer the three of them review and sample is one straight out of Ken’s keg. It is the Stone Soup from New Glarus Brewing. New Glarus is a classic midwest brewery that is rather difficult to find out of the state of Wisconsin. The Stone Soup is a Belgian Pale Ale and has an ABV of 5.3%. After that delicious midwest beer the three of them move onto the Two Jokers Double-Wit from Boulevard Brewing. The Double Joker was a trade to Ken from Dale Miskimins and was well worth the trade. Brad and Ken really haven’t experienced too many double Witbier’s but this beer made them want to try some more. The Two Jokers has an ABV of 8.0% and overall just plain rocked! Brad and Ken previously had a couple Boulevard Brewing beers on another episode and those also didn’t disappoint. If you can find any of Boulevard’s beers in your area, we highly recommend giving them a try.

Download the Podcast (260.6 MB).

Hop Cast – Episode 55

For episode 55 of the Hop Cast, Ken Hunnemeder and Brad Chmielewski are joined by Brad Stark. Brad Stark was kind enough to bring a couple beers from his recent beercation to share with Ken and Brad. It’s wonderful when people come on the show to share great craft beer they have discovered. Both of the beers Brad Stark brought on are from the brewery Middle Ages out in Syracuse, New York. The first beer they sample and review is the Druid Fluid. The Druid Fluid is a barleywine coming in at 9.5%. After this heavey hitter they move onto the Dragonslayer. The Dragonslayer is a another high alcohol beer, this russian imperial stout also comes in at 9.5 % ABV. The Hop Cast would like to thank Brad Stark for sharing a couple great beers with them from a brewery they hadn’t heard of before. If you are in the Syracuse, New York area be sure to check out what Middle Ages is doing, they have been rocking it for over 14 years.

Download the Podcast (246.2 MB).

Hop Cast – Special (Hair Of The Dog)

Shawn Horton joins Brad Chmielewski and Ken Hunnemeder for a Hop Cast special. As you may already know Brad is a huge Hair Of The Dog fan and loves to share the glorious brew with anyone who hasn’t experienced Hair Of The Dog before. Shawn had never sampled anything from them before so Brad quickly jumped on his bicycle and grabbed a few bottles from his cellar. The evening this special was shot the three of them opened three Hair Of The Dog beers including the Ruth, the Rose Cassis and a Fred. Since Brad and Ken have already featured the Fred in a previous special they decided to showcase the 2005 Rose Cassis. The Rose Cassis is something a little different since it is brewed with black currant. This beer comes in a 8.0% ABV and is currently retired so if you see this beer snatch up a bottle.

Download the Podcast (295.0 MB).

Beer Of The Month – September


We hate to say it but fall is coming whether you are ready for it or not. With changing seasons comes new beers, so this month Ken and Brad decided to pick a beer to help usher in the coming cold weather. The Hop Cast September beer of the month is the Moloko Milk Stout from Three Floyds. If you watch the Hop Cast often you know that Brad and Ken are huge Three Floyds fans so its really no surprise for them to pick one of Three Floyds beers as a beer of the month. The Moloko recently just started appearing on the shelves again. It is usually available for three to four months in the fall to early winter. When you pour out the Moloko it is pitch black with a small one finger chocolaty brown head. Coffee and sweet chocolate notes begin to erupt from the glass. In addition there are some nice overtones of vanilla and caramel adding nice depth. Don’t be scared if this beer is a little too sweet at first. The sweet malts and sugar hit you right off. But immediately that Inteligencia coffee kicks in and washes out the heavy sweet taste. The bitter tasting coffee is combined with a dash of hops to help balance the entire beer out. For a 7% ABV this beer isn’t too heavy but it does leave your mouth feeling silky and creamy after every sweet sip. If you’re lucky enough to pick up a bottle while it is available, you can easily enjoy it alone or share it with friends. Another great beer from Three Floyds!

Hop Cast – Episode 54

Ken Hunnemeder and Brad Chmielewski are joined by The Beer Genome Project co-creator Shawn Horton for episode 54 of the Hop Cast. Ken and Brad pull out a couple Russian Imperial Stouts they had been saving for this special occasion. The first beer they open and review is the Schlafly Reserve – Imperial Stout from the Missouri brewery Schlafly. This Russian Imperial Stout comes in with an ABV of 10.50%. Special thanks goes out to Jane Heather Kim for this delicious Missouri treat. Ken, Brad and Shawn then follow Schlafly Reserve up with the Old Rasputin XII. This once a year release from North Coast Brewing in California comes special delivery from Maggie Thurman. The Old Rasputin XII has an ABV of 11.20% and and IBU of 75. Big thanks to everyone who supplied Ken and Brad with these great beers and thank you for watching.

Download the Podcast (375.0 MB).