Showing posts with label homebrewer of the week. Show all posts
Showing posts with label homebrewer of the week. Show all posts

Friday, November 19, 2010

Homebrewer of the Week

This week's homebrewer interviewee is the winner of many awards at things like the Dominion Cup and Virginia Beer Blitz, as well as being the person who encouraged me to join the Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale (CAMRA).

Name: Jamey Barlow


How did you get into home brewing?

I started homebrewing back in 1996 when I was living down in Charleston, South Carolina. I guess there were two forces at play at that time. S.C. still had limits on the ABV for commercial beers back then, and brewing the beers and styles that I couldn’t buy sounded like a fun experiment. Also, I was managing restaurants back then and I still believe there are many shared personality traits between chefs and brewers. Both want to craft something special where they can show off their creativity, technical skill and, most importantly, share that with others.

Are you an all grain brewer or extract with grains?

I’m all-grain brewer, but I partial-mash brewed for a long time. I’ll never disparage extract brewing because you can make some amazing beers with extract and some grains. I think it mostly gets a bad rap because everyone starts by brewing with extract and, when you are new, your first few beers can be trying because you are still getting your head around pitching rates, sanitation, the boil and temperature control. When I was new, there were a lot of things that went wrong, but you can’t blame the extract until you have a good process.


What is the best beer you have ever brewed and why?

Most of my tasting friends (guinea pigs) would say it was one of my hoppy IPAs, but I think the best beers I’ve created are my sours. Flanders Reds can take almost 18 months to turn the corner and be drinkable. And once they do, they are amazing. But the technical skill and sanitization needed to make those beers (and not infect your other beers) is higher than your normal batch. And the stakes seem higher when you have one that takes that long to mature. That makes them more rewarding to me, right now.

What is the worst, and why?

I’ve made some bad ones over the years. One that tasted liked 5 gallons of wet cardboard always comes to mind. I think the worst was a pumpkin beer. Spices are so hard to do just right. I find you have to use half as much as you think you will need, and then I make a spice tea to blend to taste at bottling time. A made a pumpkin beer that was undrinkable. It literally tasted like liquid nutmeg and allspice.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

I think it is whatever I’m making right now. In the fourteen years I’ve been brewing, I’ve never made the same batch twice. I get obsessed during the planning stage and I love the research and formulation of the recipe.

Do you have any plans or ambitions to turn your hobby into your career?

That’s a great daydream that I have, but I think I’ve missed my window. I feel like I’ve gotten too old to take the risks, financial and otherwise, necessary to brew for a living. I’ve thought about doing the nano-brew thing a few times, but there aren’t enough hours in the week.

But I might have been a brewer in another life. I say that because I like to brew more than I like to drink beer. And I like drinking beer A LOT.

Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

Usually it is a nice, balanced American Pale ale, or a Berliner weisse. When the hops and malt are balanced, and the ABV isn’t too high, nothing is easier to enjoy than an APA. Berliners are wonderful, too, because they are session beers and they have a refreshing sourness to them that can pair with many things. Whether that be food, or having a cold one on your porch on a nice day.


How do you decide on the kind of beer to brew and formulate the recipe?

I really have to be excited by a beer in order to be motivated to make it. I’m like that about a lot of things in life. If I’m not interested, I’m probably going to do a piss poor job. If I’m hooked, then I’ll knock it out of the park. Lately I’m about challenges. I like to clone beers that I’ve never had before. I like to try unusual ingredients or styles. I’m looking to make brown ale with wild rice soon, and I want to take a swing at a Gose.

What is the most unusual beer you have brewed?

Well, I’m known for my strange ideas, so that’s a hard one to answer. I did a coconut curry hefeweizen a few years ago that was inspired by a Charlie Papazian recipe. I used fresh ginger, fenugreek and a good friend sent me Kaffir lime leaves from Thailand for it. It was a very interesting beer but it had a slow, spicy burn to it. I called it “Bombay the Hard Way”.

My other infamous one was my oyster stout where I added actual raw oysters and their shells during the last few minutes of the boil. Although it was a challenge to get my friends to try it, it turned out great and had a mind hint of brine to it.


Which professional brewery do you look up to and why?

This changes all the time but I’ve been a fan of Jolly Pumpkin for quite some time. I’m a big sour head and they do some amazing things with their oak barrels covered with wild yeast and bacteria. I have never had a bad beer from them, and the fact that they have a sour session beer, the Bam Biere, is genius and quite inspirational.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Homebrewer of the Week

This week's Homebrewer of the Week interview is really a Homebrewers of the Week, as both Boak and Bailey of blogging fame weigh in on this particular interview. I had the pleasure of meeting them in Prague a while back and enjoyed boozing with a couple of people who so obviously enjoy their beer, so without further ado, here goes.....

Name: Boak and Bailey

How did you get into home brewing?

BOAK: We can't quite remember the exact motivation but, in about 2004, I bought Bailey an extract home brewing kit for his birthday.

BAILEY: And I made a couple of brews, both of which were terrible, and lost interest. They were terrible, by the way, because we did literally everything wrong.

BOAK: Then a year or so later, we picked up some better books, and had another go, and haven't stopped since.

Are you an all grain brewer or extract with grains?

All-grain, although we occasionally experiment with extract and sometimes use DME.

What is the best beer you have ever brewed and why?

Hard to say. Our first lager, maybe, or the IPA we made for our 10th anniversary party – lots of our guests loved it and still rave about it now.

What is the worst, and why?

Oh, there have been too many disasters. Probably the Belgian-style beer which got an infection and smelled of poo/vomit. The biggest disappointment was probably a Belgian-style blonde which looked great, smelled pretty good, but tasted like pure alcohol.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

Probably our various lagers. It's so hard to get bottled lager in the UK which is anything like the stuff you get in Franconia, so we rely on this stuff to fill our stone krugs during the summer.

Do you have any plans or ambitions to turn your hobby into your career?

Doesn't everyone? We daydream, but we don't want to do anything professionally until we really know what we're doing. There are too many slightly amateurish microbreweries out there for us to go wading in to the market. Given how little time we have for brewing, it's going to be many years yet.

Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

Think the answer is the same as for 5 above – the lagers we make consistently make us smile.

How do you decide on the kind of beer to brew and formulate the recipe?

BOAK: we tend to make sure we have a fairly broad range of ingredients in store and then see how we feel on brew day. I'll usually formulate a recipe using Qbrew (http://www.usermode.org/code.html), with a stack of brewing books and references for inspiration.

What is the most unusual beer you have brewed?

We've found that the more unusual beers are our least successful, generally speaking. We've experimented with raspberry and blackberry wheat beers; we've put star anise into strong ales; and added spice to stout. Our must successful experiment was probably the use of sherry-soaked oak chips in a couple of super-strong beers, which added a whole extra dimension without much hassle.

If you could do a pro-am brew, what would you brew and with which brewery?

Cantillon! We'd have to move to Brussels for several years, of course, and we'd make something like a framboise but with blackberries from Walthamstow Marshes.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Homebrewer of the Week

Tis Friday, so it must be time for the Homebrewer of the Week mini-series. Therefore, without further ado.....

Name: Matthew Herrera

How did you get into home brewing?

Well I’ve always loved beer good beer and loved to try new styles whenever I got the chance. One year for Christmas my wife bought me a Mr. Beer kit which I used to make my first pale ale. My wife said “you’re always looking for a good beer maybe you should try making your own?” I was thrilled at the idea and the new kit! Being the technical person that I am I quickly realized that this Mr. Beer kit was novice at best. After more research I soon moved on to a bucket and carboy set up doing extracts and have since fell in love with the hobby, It has to be one of the most satisfying hobbies I have ever done!


Are you an all grain brewer or extract with grains?

I do mainly all grain brewing now although I have done a few extracts since moving to all grain. I find I just get a much better beer with all grain, I like the flexibility I have with the malts and mashing temps and I can really fine tune my wort. Also I like knowing that I made my beer from scratch if there is an off flavor I can’t blame it on the extract I have to recount my steps examine my process and find out what went wrong and where. I enjoy that part of it though it sounds silly but each mistake I make I learn from and feel it really makes me a better brewer.

What is the best beer you have ever brewed and why?

Funny I always think the best beer I’ve ever brewed is going to be the one in the carboy and as soon as I taste it will say Eureka! Honestly I have made a few beers that I simply would rather pour down the drain. To date I would have to say the best beer I ever made was a Chocolate Vanilla Porter, it was based on a Deschutes black Butte clone but I tweaked it and it was outstanding. It had a great chocolate and vanilla flavor with some nice earthy notes like you find in a black butte, it was well attenuated but still had great body not cloying but more creamy or silky on the pallet. The aroma was smooth like fresh vanilla, I think the stars aligned when I brewed this batch and the tide was just right! Actually I think it turned out so good because I was painstakingly diligent about my sanitation, and following my process. I hit the right mash temps held them for the right amount of time added the right amount of hops used a good yeast starter with aeration and held the proper fermentation temps (critical). I think my experience shined through on this batch with everything I learned.


What is the worst, and why?

The worst beer I ever made by far was a peach ale. It had a horrible medicinal phenolic flavor, I never figured out if this was due to my yeast or the peaches I added but the peaches were canned so I am leaning towards the yeast. I used saf ale 05 and I think my fermentation temp was too high. I have heard of others getting this same spicy medicinal taste with this yeast so Im pretty sure that’s what caused it. Also I may have under pitched stressing the yeast and contributing to extra phenols. I think the beer would have turned out great if I used different yeast and had my temps and pitching rate correct.

What is your favorite beer that you brew?

Honestly I have never made any beer twice there are just so many styles to make and beers to try there is just not enough time in the day. I have found that my pallet changes almost seasonally, sometimes I just go through these periods where I want pale ales, then I just want lagers, or IPA’s. I try to drink a variety but my favorite style is always changing. Lately I’ve really been enjoying ESB’s and German and Bohemian Lager’s.

Do you have any plans or ambitions to turn your hobby into your career?

Isn’t that every brewers dream! I think the day I brewed my first pale ale I was already dreaming of a microbrewery. Actually I have taken some semi serious steps in the direction of “Nano Brewer” you can look it up on the ABC website it’s a legal brewery on a nano scale there are already a few here in California. I was researching it, calling the alcohol board, calling supply companies pricing equipment and even came up with a name and found a partner. It’s something I still want to do but has been put on hold for a little bit as I figure out some personal issues in my life. I already have some of the equipment I need and am hoping that by end of 2011 I will be rolling. I plan on starting with one barrel batches and selling locally to pubs and restaurants from there I will see where it leads. I would like one day to have a 60,000 barrel a year brewery…..One day.

Of the beers you brew, which is your favorite to drink?

Of the beers I’ve brewed my favorite ones to drink are the ones that turn out good! It really depends on the season and the mood. I can’t say there is one beer that I have as a favorite, if it tastes good I like to drink it! In general I like my beers to be clear and clean tasting. That is one reason I like to rack to a secondary, it really helps clear the yeast and leaves the trub behind. My current brew is a bohemian lager, I used an interesting technique to clear it. First I crashed it down to about 44 before adding yeast or aerating, after 3 days I racked to a secondary leaving all the trub behind, I then aerated the wort and added the yeast. Over the next 3 days I raised the temp to 50 and held it there for fermentation. I tasted the beer before kegging and wow! This beer is brilliantly clear and clean tasting, I think it’s my best beer yet!

How do you decide on the kind of beer to brew and formulate the recipe?

Well with the abundance of free recipes on the internet these days it isn’t too hard to find a good one. Whether you use websites, books, forums or try to make your own there is plenty of info out there. I think having a good understanding of a style is important before venturing off into uncharted territory. I typically will take a recipe and slightly tweak it to my own. In the past I’ve used beer smith to help formulate recipes as well as a website called the brew masters warehouse, but most recently I downloaded an application for my I-touch called brew pal and it was only $1.00! I really love this app it is almost as full featured as beer smith with the convenience of being able to carry it in my pocket and follow a brew plan step by step. I also like that you can just go crazy and make up an off the wall recipe and it will find the closest BJCP category that your recipe falls into. I guess I decide on a beer I want to make depending on the mood I am in. Sometimes if I’ve tried a particular beer that caught my attention I will try to make something in that style. I’ve also planned ahead on the season and have brewed darker beer in the winter and lighter beers in the summer.

What is the most unusual beer you have brewed?

The most unusual beer I have brewed has to be my lemon honey ale. I used real lemons and real honey, I thought it would be a great session beer or lawnmower beer on those hot sunny days. I wanted it to be thirst quenching and easy drinking. Well I added to much lemon and not enough honey it tasted like lemonade beer! I still think it could be a great beer but I would add less lemon and more honey next time, or maybe just use honey malt. I may retry this one again soon.

If you could do a pro-am brew, what would you brew and with which brewery?

I think it would have to be an IPA. I have tasted so many IPA’s and they really range in character. I have tasted some that are too cloying, some that are so bitter it taste like drinking hop squeezing. I have tasted some with great aroma but not enough bitterness, and I have tasted some that hit it right on with a perfect balance. To me an IPA has to have good balance, I think too many times brewers try to cover up mistakes by adding more hops and it still doesn’t taste right. I think the perfect IPA is clean and crisp with not too much malt character and a bouquet of floral aroma with just the right amount of IBU’s. I would have to choose stone brewing Co. to do an IPA. They in my opinion have a great IPA, also IPA’s have a pretty simple malt bill which would make it easier to hit my gravity and %ABV on target. They ferment out relatively fast and if you stay in the 6 to 7 % ABV they do not take very long to mature. Every brewery should have a great IPA as a staple brew, at least in the USA. Even though IPA’s were first made in England for India I think the US really took off with the style and made it what it is today.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Homebrewer of the Week

We are staying rather close to home for Homebrewer of the Week today. Just about an hour away from Charlottesville is Richmond, capital of Virginia and one time home to the government of the Confederate States of America. It is also home to fellow homebrewer, beer blogger, beer enthusiast and all round general top bloke, E.S. Delia, whose blog, Relentless Thirst is always a worthy read.


Name: Eric Delia

How did you get into home brewing?

I got into homebrewing after delving into the craft beer movement in general. One catalyst for this was the blog I started years ago, which began to lead me on a path to discover what beer was truly about. It’s a path I was already sort of on before I even was aware of it. The brewing process had always intrigued me, ever since I visited the Anheuser-Busch plant in Williamsburg, Virginia as a kid. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that you can’t understand beer without being a homebrewer, but I do believe it adds a certain depth to that understanding.

Are you an all grain brewer or extract with grains?

All-grain. Started as an extract brewer doing partial mash.

What is the best beer you have ever brewed and why?

A saison I brewed the first time around turned out to be phenomenal, at least by my meager standards. I think the temperature settings I used in fermentation imparted great flavors, but the yeast didn’t attenuate all the way (something saison yeasts are known for). I then had to use a neutral yeast to finish it out, but it had been a while and I worried that I’d lose the batch. When everything seemed to go wrong, the beer turned out great in the end.

What is the worst, and why?

Hard to pick just one! Ha! But I’d venture to say it was a Dark Mild ale I brewed with maple syrup. The extra sugar ended up making this beer overcarbonated, and while the flavor was where I wanted it, the carbonic acid really killed the round sweetness it was supposed to have.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

Well, I do all sorts of styles and types, but I’d have to say that the saison I revisited is my favorite, just because it turned out so delicious. This latest batch is coming into its own.


Do you have any plans or ambitions to turn your hobby into your career?

It would be an amazing opportunity to turn my homebrewing into a career, but it’s nice to dream, isn’t it?

Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

Again, I’d have to go with that saison. However, I brewed a Witbier that was just a rock-solid, standard, easy-drinking beer that seemed to be great to enjoy at any time of the day or year. Relatively low alcohol content and a straight-forward, full wheat flavor made it quite quaffable.

How do you decide on the kind of beer to brew and formulate the recipe?

Research and experimentation. I’ll normally get an idea for a beer, look around to see what my malt base will look like and what kind of additional flavors I want to infuse into my mash. Then, I’ll construct the rest of the beer on top of that. Sometimes it doesn’t produce the characteristics I’m hoping for, but other times it makes for fantastic surprises.

What is the most unusual beer you have brewed?

I collaborated with a couple friends on a beer called Figgy Stardust. We basically reduced some whole figs, used Laphroaig malt in the grain bill, and added honey. The flavor components were quite subtle, but together it was off-the-wall enough to be named in honor of the Starman himself.

If you could do a pro-am brew, what would you brew and with which brewery?

Tough question, and for me it would depend on what we’re trying to brew. At the moment, I’d love to peer into the mind of Dany Prignon over at Fant?me and do an off-the-wall saison, but it’d be hard to pass up this kind of offer with any brewery, really.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Homebrewer of the Week

This week we come back to Virginia for the homebrew interview, up to Fredericksburg to be precise and the author of A Homebrew Log. As you probably recall, James and I swapped beers recently and you can my thoughts of 4 of his brews here, and here. I have a couple of his lagers sitting in the fridge and will be reviewing them soon.


Name: James Tweeddale

How did you get into home brewing?

About four or five years ago I was actually more into wine than beer. During that time my wife and I were doing a lot of wine tastings and tours of wineries and I found the whole production and fermentation process very interesting. So, I decided to have a shot at making a couple batches of fruit wine myself. I read a book, bought some equipment, and got started. My first batch, a peach wine, ended disastrously when a rubber stopper popped into the carboy and I didn't remove it. After a week with the stopper, the peach wine tasted like rubber bands so I had to dump it. The other batch, an apple wine, turned out to be pretty decent and drinkable. A few years later I had become more interested in beer and since I already had carboys, siphons, hydrometers, etc... from my wine making adventures, I decided to brew some up myself. I read a couple books (Papazian's The Complete Joy of Homebrewing and Byron Burch's Brewing Quality Beers) and started with a stovetop all-grain pale ale. The beer turned out pretty nicely although much lower in alcohol (3% abv) than planned due to a horribly inefficient mash. In hindsight I was pretty ambitious for starting out all grain but, for me, having already fermented beverages in the past, the mashing and wort production process was a grey area that I wanted to understand better. 

Are you an all grain brewer or extract with grains?

Although I brew predominantly all grain beers, I also enjoy extract brewing. Since I brew in a non-climate controlled garage, some times of year can bring extreme weather. Six or more hours in 90+ degree heat standing next to a hot mash tun and a boiling kettle can become uncomfortable and detract from the joy of homebrewing. Its times like that, or when I am trying to troubleshoot a fermentation, boil, or cooling related problem that I will brew extract recipes. Each method of brewing has its advantages. For many styles, I think the quality of beer you can make with extract & steeped specialty grains is just as good as what you can make with all grain. Good fermentation and sanitation practices make just as big of a difference regardless of which of the two methods you use to brew your beer. Extract brewing can help to focus on and troubleshoot certain aspects of brewing procedure while ruling out processes involved with mashing, sparging, etc.... The only beer I have had win a medal in competition, my Chili Pepper Lager, was made from an extract w/specialty grain recipe and fermented with dry lager yeast. All grain brewing certainly allows for a larger degree of control over the characteristics of the finished beer and many times additional opportunities for employing stylistically authentic or creative procedures and most of all, its fun!

What is the best beer you have ever brewed and why?
 
Its hard to pick only one, but, so far I would have to pick either the late hopped IPA or the Scottish 80 that I made in the past few months. The late hopped IPA because of the massive fresh floral citrusy hop aroma and flavor I managed to capture in it by adding a ton of hops during the last 5 minutes of the boil. The Scottish 80 because of the sweet malty caramelly breadiness that is derived from a high quality pale malt mashed at a high temperature followed by a long caramelizing boil. I like it when I can enjoy a beer and understand why and how the ingredients and techniques used in its production yielded the characteristics I enjoy.

What is the worst, and why?
 
 I went through a bad period of time this past Winter in which I had three beers in a row turn out infected with the same infection. None of those ever made it to bottling, but what I tasted was terrible and it sucked dumping out carboys full of beer that I spent so much time making. Eventually after tossing out all of my plastic hoses and plastic (as well as some non-plastic) equipment piece by piece and bleach sanitizing my carboys, I was able to beat whatever was causing the problems.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

 I can't say that I have a favorite. For one, I have brewed several beers that turned out to be wonderfully enjoyable to me. Also, I haven't spent much time re-brewing or tweaking the same recipe. I have only been brewing for about a year and a half and for the most part I have been brewing a different recipe or style each brew so I don't really have any "house" or regular beers.

Do you have any plans or ambitions to turn your hobby into your career?

Sometimes I daydream about the prospect of owning and operating a small brewery one day. But, then I wonder if it would be possible to maintain the same enthusiasm and enjoyment that I get from brewing if it were to become a job instead of a hobby/creative outlet.

Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

 Like many others have said, its the one I'm drinking right now.

How do you decide on the kind of beer to brew and formulate the recipe?
 
One of my favorite things about home brewing is that can I brew whatever style of beer I am in the mood to drink. When it comes time to formulate a recipe, a find a good basic starting point in books like Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels, Brewing Classic Styles by John Palmer and Jamil Zainasheff, or more narrow scoped books like Brew Like a Monk by Stan Hieronymus and Farmhouse Ales by Phil Markowski. I also look at recipes homebrew bloggers post as well as recipes shared on forums like Homebrewtalk.com. Once I have a basic idea for a recipe, I look at my favorite commercial beers of the subject style and tweak my recipe to include ingredients or procedures that give those beers the characteristics that I enjoy. After I brew a beer once, then the trick is to begin slowly tweaking the recipe in future re-brews to get it closer to where I want it to be for my system. I still have not brewed a beer that turned out exactly like I wanted it to.

What is the most unusual beer you have brewed?

That would have to be my Chili Pepper Lager. Its has a crisp clean golden lager base with lot of prominent smoky roasted jalapeno pepper flavor and a touch of habanero heat on the finish. Its a pretty funny juxtaposition to spend six or seven weeks slowly fermenting and lagering a beer in the style of a clean delicate golden lager that all the while has jalapenos and habaneros floating around in it.
 
If you could do a pro-am brew, what would you brew and with which brewery?

I can't choose one in particular, but I would be interested in brewing with one of the small micro or nano-breweries that are sprouting up around the country. I like the flexibility they have to be creative with small batches. I also like the way they are more closely tied to serving the area and community in which they exist. These kinds of breweries have the opportunity to form close relationships with the people who purchase and consume their beers and cater to niches of small demand that aren't profitable for larger breweries. There are small nano-breweries that have started up here in Virginia recently that I have been following with interest such as Wolf Hills in Abingdon and Shooting Creek in Blacksburg. As far as what kind of beer I would like to brew, today I would have to say a nice golden, hoppy, and aromatic American IPA but tomorrow it might be a big malty dopplebock.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Homebrewer of the Week

For Homebrewer of the Week today we head over to Ireland and the author of the Tale of the Ale blog, whose wife is a good friend of Mrs Velkyal and hosted us in November 2008 when we visited that most fantastic country.


Name: Reuben Gray

How did you get into home brewing?

I had been thinking about it for a while and Velky Al introduced me to Irishcraftbrewer.com during a visit to Ireland. Amazing that it is an Irish website and I never knew it existed.

Are you an all grain brewer or extract with grains?

All grain

What is the best beer you have ever brewed and why?

There are a number of fantastic beers I have brewed but the one that stands out for me the most, and perhaps it is for sentimental reasons is my first all grain brew called Cloaked Stranger. A very strong, bitter, toasty dry Irish stout. I have never had a commercial stout I like more.

What is the worst, and why?

The worst is not even a bad beer. I would say that Wheaty Goodness is the worst. This is a recent brew which doubled as a demonstration to a fellow homebrewer who wanted to move to All grain from extract. It is a wheat beer but with extra hops, one of which is Rakau from New Zealand. I think what happened is that a wild yeast made it in to the fermenter so it was initially very sour. This has now mellowed out and is a rather refreshing beer now but due to the suspected wild yeast infection (harmless to consume) it gets worst beer vote.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

Cloaked stranger is my favourite all-time beer although the beer I am drinking right now, Hoppety Hop is a double IPA and in this warm weather is so refreshing that it is my current favourite brew. It is so bitter (106 IBU) and refreshing but the sweetness makes it seem very drinkable.

Do you have any plans or ambitions to turn your hobby into your career?

Yes I would love to open a brewpub at some point.

Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

For pure ease of drinking in quantity, perhaps Blonde Beggar which is a simple blonde ale although Seeing Red was a much more complex beer but could pass as a session beer. The cascade finish from a very malty red ale was just superb so I will go with Seeing Red because everyone who likes beer was blown away with it. The style is aiming towards Clotworthy Dobbin but was not a clone of the beer, just the inspiration.

How do you decide on the kind of beer to brew and formulate the recipe?

Random thoughts, there is usually very little planning. One of my latest beers is called Random Summer Sunshine and was born out of what ingredients I had handy that were getting on in age and the need to make another summer Quaffer.

What is the most unusual beer you have brewed?

I brewed a Belgian style Dubbel and I was going for the less sweet style of Northern Belgium (Bruges). I made a very complex beer using all kinds of different grains and I thought it came out fantastic and exactly what I want. One comment I got from a very experience home brewer was “wow that’s weird…” I don’t think he knew what to make of it but I loved it as did my wife and the comments were positive on the whole.

If you could do a pro-am brew, what would you brew and with which brewery?

I would like to work with Bells and do my Seeing Red with them because Bells Oberon was the first craft beer I can remember and is what got me in to Craft beer in the first place. I was very much of the opinion that Americans only brewed beer flavoured water like Bud, Miller etc and was shocked when I came across a taps I did not recognize and found that American bars usually also serve local beers. So everywhere I went I asked for the local beers and the rest is history. Bells will always have a special place in my heart. That and they are from Michigan were my wife is from.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Homebrewer of the Week

The beginnng today of a new semi-regular series, in the spirit of my recent Brewer of the Week I introduce Homebrewer of the Week! First up is, well, me. So here goes.

Name: Velky Al

How did you get into home brewing?

My homebrewing was a result of my getting into beer more seriously than just chugging gallons of whatever industrial stuff was available while watching football in the pub. As much as I love Czech beer, which is predominantly pale lager, my first beer love has always been stout. My first legal beer was Guinness, I loved Murphy's and Beamish as well. I wanted to make my own because there is so little ale being made by commercial brewers in the Czech Republic.

Are you an all grain brewer or extract with grains?

I brew with extract and specialty grains. I don't have the space at the moment to go all grain, though I plan to eventually, the key word being eventually, I am in no rush.

What is the best beer you have ever brewed and why?

Difficult to say, I really enjoyed my imperial stout I brewed last winter as I did my Christmas beer. Having said that, a week or so ago I open a bottle of a barley wine I brewed last November in preparation for Thanksgiving to see if it was worth putting forward for the Dominion Cup. Well, simply put it was smooth, boozing and obscenely easy to drink for its 12%abv.

What is the worst, and why?

My first brew in the US was a total disaster. I wanted to make a pale ale with Amarillo hops, using White Labs' Burton yeast. For some reason the yeast didn't do its thing and the beer didn't ferment properly, so I had to pour 5 gallons down the sink. That was the reason I ditched the 5 gallon batches for 2.2 gallons and clear carboys rather than white buckets.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

It has to be LimeLight, my lime and coriander witbier, which is also very popular with people who drink it. It is such a simple recipe and the results are consistently good. Without having to go through the hassle of all grain brewing, I am done with LimeLight in about 2 hours from start to finish.


Do you have any plans or ambitions to turn your hobby into your career?

I would love to, but I have to admit that as much as I enjoy brewing, I prefer seeing the enjoyment other people get from drinking it. Working in a brewery tasting room has taught me plenty about serving beer, keeping lines clean and the like, so I would like to have a pub at some point in the future, whether my own brewpub or taking on a tied house with one of Britain's regional brewers.

Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

My favourite to drink is my Scottish export ale, which I call Gael 80/-. It is very much a classic Scottish ale, more sweet than it is malty, lightly hopped and at only about 4.5% abv something I can drink plenty of. It was also the first beer I successfully conditioned in my polypin/cubitainor to replicate cask conditioning, and it was even better!


How do you decide on the kind of beer to brew and formulate the recipe?

As I said in the first question, it started out wanting to brew a stout. Otherwise I think about the kind of flavours I am looking for and then go from there, sometimes I want to brewing something as close “to style” as possible. For example at the moment I am planning a beer based on my favourite chocolate bar, the Twix. I am thinking about using Biscuit malt, Chocolate malt and one of the Caramel malts, and very lightly hop it.

What is the most unusual beer you have brewed?

In terms of ingredients, my Christmas beer was the most unusual, especially as I wasn't following a given style, just making it up. My initial idea was to make a beer that reminded me of the gingerbread houses my mother made at Christmas when we were kids. I started off with an amber DME base and added some Caramel 80 for colour and a touch of sweetness, for the hops I used French Strisselspalt, a very low alpha acid type. Nothing drastically unusual so far, but then came the spices I added to the boil, the classic Christmas spices of cloves, ginger, and cinnamon, as well as dried sweet orange peel. The result was essentially a very yummy liquid gingerbread, which I called Biere d'épices.


If you could do a pro-am brew, what would you brew and with which brewery?

A very difficult question, and I can think of several breweries I would like to do something with, all of them back in the UK. Everards would be an automatic choice as Mark there has given me tons of invaluable advice for my homebrewing, and I learnt a lot from his when we met up in Prague to tour some of the brewpubs there, not to mention the fact that I think Tiger is one of the nicest beers I had last time I was in England. Another brewer who has been a great source of knowledge and enthusiasm for beer, and whose beer I love drinking, is Jeff at . Finally would be Dave at the HardKnott Brewery because he seems to like doing random stuff, which kind of chimes with my own way of thinking about brewing. In an ideal world, we would all of get together to brew something, perhaps with one us choosing the malt, one the hops, one the yeast and the other the water!

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...

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