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.

Hop Cast – Episode 61

In this episode of the Hop Cast, Ken Hunnemeder and Brad Chmielewski put down their beer to talk with the boozehound Kyle McHugh. Kyle McHugh helped to start up the boutique liquor store Drinks Over Dearborn. The shop is warm, intimate and very inviting especially for a couple beer lovers like Ken and Brad. Drinks Over Dearborn is located on the second floor at 650 N Dearborn Street. You will have to be buzzed up to enter but don’t let that turn you away because your are not likely to be disappointed with what they have to over. Besides their excellent selection of beers, one of Drinks Over Dearborn’s greatest feature is the ability to mix and match beers to create your own six pack. Even if you aren’t in the mood for a six pack you can even just walk out with one 12 oz bottle. Kyle is very knowledgeable in all things drink related and is more they happy to help you to find something that you are likely to enjoy. Ken and Brad would like to thank Kyle for taking the time to speak with them. Be sure to check out Drinks over Dearborn’s calender on their site because they have a lot of great events happening all around the city.

Download the Podcast (220.5 MB).

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.

Hop Cast – Episode 60

For episode 60 of the Hop Cast, Brad Chmielewski and Ken Hunnemeder enjoy a couple Hawaiian beers that were sent to the main land from the Two Beer Queers. The beers they try on the show feature flavors you wouldn’t usually see from a beer in the midwest. The first beer they dive into is the CoCoNut Porter from Maui Brewing and it comes in at 5.7% ABV. This time of year in the midwest you are more likely to see pumpkin porter but a coconut porter is a great way to bring the fall season in too. The CoCoNut Porter came in a canned six pack sampler, something neither Brad or Ken had seen before. The next Hawaiian beer the two of them try is the Wailua Wheat from Kona Brewing. What makes this beer extra unique is that it was brewed with passion fruit. A big thanks to the Two Beer Queers for providing us with the beers featured.

Download the Podcast (230.4 MB).

HopCast Episode 59

Episode 59: New Holland Ichadob Ale & Schlafly Pumpkin Ale

In Episode 59 Ken Hunnemeder and Brad Chmielewski are ready for halloween and are enjoying a couple pumpkin beers. They start off the episode enjoying Ken’s pumpkin porter homebrew that he had stashed away. They follow that up with the New Holland Ichadob Ale. This beer is usually pretty easy to find at your local beer store in the midwest. It comes in at 5.5% ABV which makes it a good session ale.Ken and Brad follow the Ichadob Ale up with Pumpkin Ale from Schlafly. This 8.0% ABV pumpkin gift came from Hop Cast fan Steve Wyatt. The Schlafly Pumpkin Ale packs some great flavors and is highly recommended, if you can find it. Ken Hunnemeder and Brad Chmielewski would like to wish everyone who watches the Hop Cast a Happy Halloween!

Having issues listening to the video? Try the Quicktime (524.7 MB) or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

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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Interview With Jonathan Cutler

Brad Chmielewski and Ken Hunnemeder interviewed Piece brewer Jonathan Cutler a few days before the Great American Beer Festival. Unfortunately they had some audio issues with this episode; it seemed like where they were sitting in the restaurant just amplified the background noise making it difficult to listen to the interview. This was an excellent interview with Jonathan Cutler so below you will find the transcript of the interview.

Ken
Just kinda wanted to go through specifically right now, what are you drinking Brad?

Brad
I have the Dysfunctionale, and its coming in at like 5?

Jon
It’s closer to 6.

Ken
I’m doing the Camel Toe which is actually Brad’s Favorite. But he’s got to go to work later and I don’t so I went ahead and went for it because its about 9.5?

Jon
Yeah 9.5% Double IPA, a lot of hops a lot of malt.

Ken
It’s a treat.

Ken
And then it looks like you have the Golden Arm there.

Jon
Kölsch, yeah I still have work to do today. So went with a lighter beer.

Ken
Well we appreciate you jumping on board here. Know you’re not feeling well. But you’re a beer trooper.

Brad
So all your beers feature or a lot of them feature amarillo hops.

Jon
No not necessarily . There is definitely some amarillo in there but there is also cascade, centennial, simco. The only beer that is straight amarillo is the Amarillo Brillo, which we are actually making today.

Ken
One thing I noticed after coming here for years is that you do a lot of different styles and you do them all very well. Specifically right now you actually have an Alt beer on which is somewhat rare to see. Lagers, bocks, different hefeweizen’s and of course you have some great hoppy ales. You must bring them to quite a few festivals and it is the festival season and all.

Jon
We just went to the great taste of the midwest which is always fun in Madison. That’s really like my favorite beer festival. I think its actually the best beer festival in the country, I mean a lot of people will agree with me. It’s not a competition, it’s on the side of the lake up in Madison, WI. It’s really chill, you just bring up three of four kegs of beer and tap them and have a good time. It’s really a lot of fun.

Brad
Yeah we missed that one, sadly.

Jon
You guys got to make it. But the GABF is actually next weekend in Denver. Everything is done, sent off and ready. The anxiety about getting all of that stuff ready is still very present.

Ken
You’ve done very well in past, you’ve won a bunch of awards notably at GABF and also the World Beer cup.

Jon
::Knocks On Table::
We’ve gotten lucky and made some good beer… its always fun. It’s nice to have some recognition. Because it’s all blind judging by people who are trained brewers or trained taste judges. It’s good to get some accolades from your peers. Becuase when you see people drinking your beer and enjoying it you get that kind of immediate sense of ok cool, I know I like this and the customers like this but it’s always nice to have a blind judge. Not a blind judge but…

::Laughs::

A judge at a blind tasting say, yes this is true to style and a quality beer. That’s the cool thing about that.

Brad
What are you featuring up at the GABF this time?

Jon
Just what we usually have. I kind of know what we’ll have on tap this time of year. And we just plan accordingly. We don’t brew anything special or different for it, we just go with what we have.

Ken
I took a trip down to Three Floyds one time and saw a collaboration with them. I don’t know how many you have done with them.

Jon
We’ve done a couple.

Ken
It was the Ham on Rye. That was quite something. It was a smoked rye beer if I remember correctly. How many things are you doing over there? It seems like you have a pretty good relationship with them.

Jon
We’ve done a beer here and there. Umm.. Barnabe has come up and done a beer with me and Nick has came up and did a beer with me a couple years ago. But, they are actually really good friends of mine. We go out to dinner together, I’ve known Nick for years, I’ve known Barnabe for years and I know Chris V. through Barnabe and I’ve known him for years as well. We have gone on vacations together as well. It’s not just a working relationship we have a social relationship as well.

Brad
It seems like the Chicago beer community is pretty close. All those guys, Flossmoor, and Rock Bottom guys…

Jon
Ya everyone knows each other. The craft brewers guild meets pretty regularly. So you know all the brewers, and it’s a pretty small community. There are only so many pubs.

Brad & Ken
Yeah ::Laughs::

Jon
So everyone gets to know each other it’s a small incestuous community.

Brad
Have you been brewing here since Piece opened? Been eight years?

Jon
Yeah I’ve been here since before the doors opened.

Ken
Then previous to that how long were you brewing before you landed the Piece gig.

Jon
Couple years, I brewed for almost three years at Goose Island and then almost a year at Sierra Nevada. And then left Sierra Nevada to come back here.

Ken
Originally from Chicago?

Jon
Yeah, I grew up in Libertyville…

Ken
Gurnee guy here.

Jon
Nice Catholic community in the suburbs.

All
::Laughs::

Ken
Well, it must be fantastic for you to be doing exactly what you love to be doing in the city you grew up in?

Jon
Yeah, its nice. That’s why I came back. Sierra Nevada was an unbelievable company to work for and they treat their employees very well. Its basically like a dream job. This was a chance to come back to Chicago, ya know I’m from here I think Chicago is the best big city in the country. Making beer is what I really wanted to do so yeah making beer in Chicago, its about it. Its great.

Brad
You probably have a little more say here too.

Jon
Thats true. This was eight years ago too, so I was a little bit younger and a little bit thinner and a little bit dumber. And it was a chance to come back and do, not do whatever I wanted but pretty much whatever I wanted to do. The owner has always been open to anything I want to do, no one said you need to make this beer or that beer. I came in here and it was kind of common sense. I want to have something light, something dark, something with hops, something with wheat, just trying to cater to as many people as possible.

Ken
Yeah its a very, very balanced selection. And you’ve even had some belgian stuff that I’ve had, which was great as well.

Jon
Yeah we got a belgian beer in the tank now. Our Christmas Ale is always a belgian beer. We do a triple and a single. We try to mix things up. As far as belgian beers go, we don’t brew as many of them but if we don’t have it on tap we’ve got a number of belgian beers in bottles and we’ve also got 10 guest taps.

Brad
Yeah, you have Surly and Three Floyds.

Jon
Yeah we always have Three Floyds, Bells, Sierra Nevada on tap.

Ken
Yeah it’s a great guest list.

Jon
One of the first questions that I was getting when we first opened was, aren’t you scared of guest beers kind of cannibalizing your beers. I wasn’t worried about it cause we knew what we were going to do here and then the guest beers were just going to fill in the slots. We were going to make a pale ale. I started making a kölsch kind of on a whim and it turned out pretty well. Now its our number one selling beer and I can’t stop making it. We were going to do a wheat beer, a stout, a porter, or a dark lager and the guest beers were going to be stuff that was local that I thought was good and was something that we don’t do a whole lot of, like I don’t do any fruit beers. As far as framboise or kreiks or anything like that. We’ve always got one of those on the guest tap. The idea was that if you came in here and I didn’t have a beer that you liked on tap, maybe there was a guest tap and if there wasn’t one there then we’d have bottled beers. We’ve got pretty much an example of every styled beer here.

Ken
If you can’t find one then it’s your fault.

Jon
To promote not just us, but beer culture and if I’m not making a beer you like, hopefully we’ve got one you like.

Jon
Its nice that people like drinking your beers and it’s good to sell a lot of beer, its just trying to keep them on tap becomes you playing tetris with the tanks.

Brad
Is there a plan to bottle anything?

Jon
Not right now. We’d obviously looking towards the future, we’d love to see Piece on tap at bars or people being able to pick up a six pack of like Golden Arm at a liquor store but that I guess is the next step. We just did an expansion about a year and a half ago on the others side and added more tanks over there and that immediately got filled up with kolsch and specialty beers. We’re basically right back at capacity. We have a seven barrel system and we’re going to brew close to over 1600 barrels this year. So thats a lot of brew. We are brewing every day on top of cleaning and transferring. Its a lot of work but its a labor of love.

Ken
Anyone thats been in Piece knows that its really one of the popular places to be here. It can be tough to get a table. Not only have you discussed the great beer you have but the pizza here is fantastic.

Jon
The pizza is unbelievable. Thats the thing, people they talk about brewpubs, its a restaurant still and if the food isn’t good then people aren’t going to come just for the beer. No matter how good your beer is if you don’t have something to eat with it, its not going to be the same. And the pizza here is just outstanding.

Brad
Mashed potatoes…

Jon
Yeah mashed potato, bacon pizza

Brad
We add some jalapeno’s on there too.

Ken
Thats right we call it the hopcast special. We order it whenever we’ll be doing a few episodes in one night. So we’d like to see it on the menu at some point.. be able to call up and order the hopcast special. ::Laughs::

Jon
I’ll see what I can do.

Ken
Well one of the things that I love to do, especially during the football season, is you have the special on sunday where you can get the large pizza and a growler to go for $25. Watching football and just relax on the couch all day, thats a good sunday.

Jon
One of the best deals going.

Ken
For sure.

Jon
We sell a lot of growlers. We are doing anywhere from 175 to 200 growlers a week. A lot of beer to go.

Ken
Great things going on at Piece. Thank you for joining us. You can also follow on twitter @Piecechicago

Brad
Stop in if you’re on North Ave. Get some beer, get some pizza.

Jon
Cheers!

Home Brewer Profile – Joseph Lemnah

Joseph-Lemnah1

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!

Joseph-Lemnah2

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.

Hop Cast – Episode 58

Episode 58 of the Hop Cast is a little different than normal. Instead of looking at different beers, Ken Hunnemeder and Brad Chmielewski take a look at six different beer commercials. There are not many craft beer commercials out there so the ones seen in this episode are from a few of the larger macro breweries. Don’t worry, Ken and Brad stay true and talk about these commercials while enjoying a few different craft beer lagers. This event was part of the AD Autopsy series from the Marketing Communications Department at Columbia College Chicago. We’ve included a small part of the discussion that took place with experts in the field of advertising. Big thanks to Michelle Passarelli for inviting the Hop Cast to the event and allowing it to be recorded. Grab a beer and join Ken and Brad as they watch a few commercials and give their opinions.

Download the Podcast (291.8 MB).

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.