Brew & A: Jim "Homercidal" Hulliberger

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If you've been on HomeBrewTalk for any length of time you've more than likely come in contact with Jim Hulliberger, otherwise known to the HomeBrewTalk world as Homercidal. A members since 2008, and a moderator since January 2013, Jim has brought his unique perspective to brewing and HomeBrewTalk through his moderation, his love of food, and his constant upbeat attitude. I sat down with Jim for our newest series, Brew and A, Legends in Brewing, and got to know the man and the brewer.

A little more on Jim:
Link to Profile: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/members/homercidal
Real Name: Jim Hulliberger
Join Date: Feb. 10 2008

Threads of Note!

A Beginners Guide to Lack of Airlock Activity

Pretzel Neckalces at Beer Festivals

Tardis Beer Fridge

Brew & A: Jim "Homercidal" Hulliberger - TxBrew - hbt-homer-tardis-article-962.jpg

TxBrew: How did you start brewing?

Jim: When I was about 20-21 I noticed my friend's stepdad always had several carboys of wine in the kitchen. I was curious about all kinds of things scientific and I asked him about how wine was made. He offered to make wine with me, but I didn't like wine. So he offered to help me make beer instead. He gave me his a bench capper that was going unused, and I picked up a can of Mount Mellick Light American Lager, some yeast, and Charlie Papazian's Complete Joy of Homebrewing.

That batch was not terrible, but ingredients and knowledge have improved a LOT since then.

TxBrew: What's your favorite beer?

Jim: I don't think I could ever pick just one! My mood dictates my taste at any given moment. That said, I think I still like IPAs best overall, especially the American variety. There is just something about that hop flavor I really dig. Of course at any given time I might want a Belgian Wit, CAP, Oatmeal Stout, RIS, Anything not sour. I don't do tart or sour beers. I'm missing out on the latest fad for sure!

TxBrew: What's your favorite hop to brew with? Do you like any other hop based products? Candy, Sodas, etc?

Jim: Easy. Centennial. I love the grapefruit and citrus it gives to an IPA. And that's weird because I'm not really a fan of fruit. I actually have a bag of B-Hoppy hop candy in my Jeep right now. I've been saving it to share at the next Big Rapids Area Master Mashers (BAMM) Homebrew club meeting, and it's driving me crazy to see it sitting there! I've tried Hop Soda as well at a music and microbrews festival and I really liked it. It's kind of light and could use a bit more hop flavor IMO, but still pretty good and a nice alternative when you don't want the alcohol in beer.

I once tried making my own hop ice cream and it didn't turn out. Too bitter by far. I think it would be possible, and tasty, if you could use hop extract and just get the flavor.


TxBrew: What's one piece of your brew setup you can't live without?

Jim: Another tough one. There are a few that are integral to brewing, like my Wort Chiller. I'd never want to do without that, and I consider that ALMOST absolutely necessary. Beyond the very basic items, I'd say my Autosiphon. I played with other methods of siphoning, and I simply don't like them. Nothing is as easy to do as to spray sanitizer in and on the autosiphon, stick it in the vessel, and pump a couple of times.

I also very much like my refractometer and pH meter, but I'll be honest, sometimes I forget, or am just too lazy to use them. You could say that at those times I am confident in my mash efficiency.

TxBrew: Who makes your wort chiller? Who do you recommend?

Jim: I made my own wort chiller. It's a plain old common Counterflow Chiller. I had some copper tubing left over from some remodeling, and an old garden hose laying around. It works well and was nearly free. I probably had half of the other copper pieces on hand from sweating pipes in our house over the years.

As far as what I recommend, there are pros and cons of EVERY kind of chiller. There are several ways of using each which affect their effectiveness. The benefits of each depend on if you have a pump or not. But they are all good devices in any case. Even a cheap and simple Immersion Chiller is way better than nothing, and would possibly be my preference if I didn't have a pump, because the entire batch is being chilled at once, rather than just what has passed through the chiller. And they are really easy to clean.

I don't have a preference as far as brand because I think in general they are all pretty much the same device. I'm not up on brands anyway, as I build most things I need or want.

Brew & A: Jim "Homercidal" Hulliberger - TxBrew - homer-976.jpg


TxBrew: What's the worst product you've ever used?

Jim: This is a hard one. I guess I must have been lucky, because I can't really think of anything that was just awful. I have a Love/Hate relationship with Oxiclean. I love how it cleans, but with my highly alkaline water, it will leave a mineral residue on everything. I have to follow up with an acid rinse. I have been meaning to see if adding a bit of acid in the water before I add the Oxi will prevent it in the first place, but haven't experimented with that yet. Maybe that would be a good question for one of the water experts.

TxBrew: Why do you homebrew?

Jim: I am a hobbyist by nature. I am curious about a lot of different things. I won't start listing all of the things I have dabbled in, or have an interest in, but it's varied.

I didn't start out loving beer when I started homebrewing. I had drank beer, and didn't necessarily dislike it either. Once I got into homebrewing for the fun of taking seeing yeast convert the sugars to alcohol, I found a wider range of beer flavors and styles than I ever knew existed. Back then, where I lived, I never had exposure to darker beers. I'd heard the name Guinness.

Now, I've come to love the taste of a lot of different styles of beer. I would like to say I homebrew because that is how I can enjoy drinking all of those beers at home, but the truth is, beer selection has grown so much that saying I have to homebrew just to be able to drink all of those beer would be lying. I can go down to the party store in my small town and find a decent selection of different styles. I can drive 15 minutes away and find a much wider selection. I can drive about an hour and find a VERY nice selection. If I didn't have that selection to choose from, then I would say that would be one reason.

But the biggest reason is that I simply enjoy making things myself and I like sharing it. It makes me happy to be able to brew a good tasting beer to share with friends or sometimes even strangers. My quality and consistency is still fairly variable, so I don't always have beer on hand that I would feel good about sharing, but I'm working on it. There is a LOT you can learn about in this hobby. It's fun and in the end you get beer!


What is NOT to like?

TxBrew: What's your most well received beer?

Jim: My brewing quality varies. I am always upgrading my system and trying new things. A couple of years ago I made an American Stout that scored 43.5 in a West Michigan Competition. I really liked that beer. I have a Chocolate Milk Stout that seems to be popular with the ladies (Sorry if that comes across as sexist, but it seems to be true.) I've also brewed Biermuncher's Centennial Ale and it seemed pretty popular with the regular beer people.

In general I'm kind of hit and miss. I only brew about once a month on average, and it's hard to get consistent and tweak a recipe to perfection when you brew that infrequently and are always trying new things. I hope to perfect my light lagers and make a CAP that BMC people will enjoy. I'm not an elitist. I actually want to brew some good light lagers for myself too.


TxBrew: What's your homebrewing style - extract, partial mash, all-grain, biab, or ?

Jim: I mainly brew All Grain. I started out with a canned kit or two or probably half a dozen. I skipped PM and then went straight to AG. I was somewhat hesitant to make the jump back then. What if I screwed up? Do I really understand how all of this works?? I just have to laugh now. Brewing All Grain turned out to be really easy. I remember after my first mash while I was collecting wort for the boil and thinking, "That was it??"

I do sometimes BIAB depending on the situation. But I have a cooler mash tun with a drilled copper manifold, so unless I am mashing a small amount for a stovetop experiment or something, I just use the mash tun. I really appreciate the growth of BIAB though. I think it's a fabulous method for a lot of people, and I really like that you can dip your toes into the deep end of brewing, so to speak, without spending a lot of money. I know a few people who BIAB even though they could easily build a mash tun if they wanted. It works well for them, that's what they are used to, and some of them are brewing 10 gallon batches!

TxBrew: What was your first all grain beer? Any tips or words of advice for brewers debating making the plunge to AG?

Jim: Boy, I'll be honest: I don't really remember what my first AG beer was. I am pretty sure my last Extract batch was a Barleywine and I still have a few bottles in the closet. I should pull one out and drink it this weekend...

I'm going to go out on a limb here and make a statement from all of the All Grain brewers out there to all of the people who even THINK they want to go all grain. DO IT!


TxBrew: Tell us about one of your most memorable homebrewing experiences.

Jim: There are many pleasant experiences that I've had while homebrewing. I'd say probably the most memorable is my first "Brewday". Henry Hill hosted people to gather at his place to brew beer, drink beer, and eat food. Now I am not a very social person. I am often uncomfortable around new people and new situations, so this was a big thing for me. I brought a friend who lived closer that area of SE Michigan who was homebrewing a little.

There were several other people there from HBT. Yooper, FSR402, and a few others. Man it's been a while now! I can't remember who all I met there! Meeting them all was great. Henry Hill and his wife Z were very gracious hosts, and I know a few batches were made and a lot of beer and food was consumed. I'd never seen anyone else brew before. I don't think I had yet brewed AG at that point, so it was very cool to see some other methods being used, and just see what other options were out there for me. I consider Yooper a good friend and we still get together and do things once or twice a year as time and distance allows. She has had my family up to her cabin for brewdays since then and it's always nice to visit and talk about beer and brewing and other things. And the nice thing about that is, you can sit back and drink beer while she does all the talking!

I highly recommend anyone who hasn't attended a "Brewday" to try and make it to one. Most clubs will have a few throughout the year and I think most are open to people coming to check it out. Beyond the exposure to new methods and also the discussion of methods and all things homebrew, (and the great food and beer) you may discover some new friends.

TxBrew: Have you been to any other brew days or brewing events? Any advice for the antisocial brewer on getting involved in social events and gatherings?

Jim: I've been to several. Siciliano's Market in Grand Rapids puts on a Homebrewer Appreciation party at a park each may and it's a good time. Food, Games, and lots of Homebrew. Several Clubs bring their jockey boxes and the awards for the annual competition are handed out.
I recently helped start a local homebrewing club (Big Rapids Area Master Mashers, or BAMM) and we've already had a brewday and another one is coming up.

My advice is to first be yourself, pace your drinking, ask a lot of questions (and write down the answers so you can remember them later!) and just find out what other people are doing. I've noticed that good food always seems to be there at brewday. And who doesn't like good food? If you are planning a brew day, I think it's good to ask people to bring a dish to pass, maybe finger food or walking around food if possible.

Maybe the only thing to watch out for is overindulging. Nobody wants to be "that guy". You know, the one who insists you can hold a beer bottle high up on a wall using static electricity by rubbing it on your head?? (I didn't actually witness this, but I have it on good authority that it's actually happened before!).

It's hard to pace when there are so many different beers to try. I have discovered over the years that using a small glass works better for me, as I am less likely to pour too much at a time and I can sample several beers before it equals a whole regular glass.

TxBrew: Describe the perfect beer - style, aroma, flavor, etc.

Jim: Well, there is no perfect beer. I have a few favorites, and if I'm away from one of them too long it's always nice to discover them again as if for the first time, whether it's a light and refreshing Witbier, and supper hoppy IPA (You know when it feels like you just had a mouthful of hops! and then sometimes the roasty malty flavors of a good stout when it starts to get cold out again.

The perfect beer is the one I have missed for not having it in a while.

TxBrew: Which Beer is that right this minute?

IPA. I've been on a light beer kind of kick lately. I had some very nice lagers that pjj2ba shared at NHC and it's kind of kick started my interest in lagers and in lighter tasting beers as well. Plus it's that time of year. I have a Blonde Ale and a Scottish /70 on tap right now and I'm starting to have a hankering for some hops! Luckily I have a Founders Devil Dancer in the fridge so I plan to satisfy my hop needs very soon.

I rather enjoy going from style to style, so before too long I'll be back in "Stout Mode" for a few months. I always seem to mix some IPAs into whatever kick I'm currently on. I can't seem to stay away from them for too long, but I also think it's good to step back once in a while and clear your palate. You get that "feels like the first time" feeling that way.


TxBrew: What's your dream brew rig, and how would you assemble it?

Everyone has their own preferences for brewing rigs. I started out on the stovetop and have evolved my process over the years as I gained new experience and knowledge. I am currently halfway between a propane fired 3-vessel system, to an electric HERMS 3 vessel system.

Part of the enjoyment of brewing is the building of the gadgets. My problem is Real Life is always getting in the way. Besides the normal day-to-day duties, I have a few other hobbies (Although I HAVE cut back a lot, I swear!) and of course I feel the need to spend quality time with the family. Kids grow up so fast!

So I am currently in the process of building my dream rig. I've got an element loaded into a keggle and have brewed with that more than a few times. I still have to wire up the HLT with a PID and start using a recirculating mash with temp control (I hate having to hit a mash temp accurately. I suck at it!) I have the pump and the CFC so I'm nearly there. I just have to set aside a few hours for a few days to get back at it.

Once it's built I'm sure there will be some other tweaks I will want to try out.

TxBrew: Do you have any pics of your setup? Were you forced out of the kitchen into the garage or did you go on your own free will? Is Mrs. Homercidal a brewer as well?

Jim: No pics. Maybe when I get my rig more complete. I am terrible at remembering to document my build activity. I did get a few pics of me fitting a HERMS coil into my HLT, but it's not complete.

I wouldn't say I was forced out of the kitchen. I found it inconvenient to have to fit my system into whatever was happening in there at the time, like dinner being made, dishes needing done, stuff on the table (probably my stuff!).

The reason I went outside was because I got a turkey fryer and started doing full boils. I would mash in the kitchen, boil outside, chill inside... There was too much moving around, and I really wanted a more dedicated space for everything. I find the garage to be more convenient in a lot of ways. I can blast my favorite tunes and a little spilled wort is no big deal when you have a floor drain.

My wife is NOT a homebrewer. She is very supportive, though. More so since I started being more careful to NOT talk about brewing ALL THE TIME! She went from not really liking the smell of brewing, to actually enjoying it. Probably the only part of the hobby she doesn't like is the part where I leave stuff here and there where it doesn't really belong.

We go to beer festivals together, especially the ones with a variety of bands. She has a good time and there is usually some good food too. She doesn't really drink beer, but nowadays there is always a cider or wine to be found and she likes those.

TxBrew: What is the one piece of advice you wish someone would've giving you when you first started?

Jim: EASY! TEMP CONTROL!

It seems so obvious now, but for a while, even after being on the forums for a while, I never thought that much about maintaining consistent proper temps. I was probably distracted by the dazzling array of new and intriguing equipment options, beer styles, who knows what... It just didn't come across to me as all that important. I would stick the carboy or bucket in a cool(ish) location in the house if there was one.

I'm not sure exactly what triggered my start towards temperature control. Maybe it was someone on here, or maybe when I read Palmer's How to Brew. I can't really say. But I know I built a swamp cooler and swapped in frozen pop bottles and from there I found some Craigslist fridges and freezers and a Johnson control. I think my beers are much better for it.

Of course there are other problems that can pop up, but keeping the fermentation temp at a place where the yeast will do their job and not go crazy putting out a lot of undesirable flavors is so much better than settling for whatever spot in the house is most appropriate and risking having a "less better" beer in the end.


Thanks go to Jim not only for sitting down for Brew and A, Legends in Brewing, but for helping set the tone and direction for HomeBrewTalk. Jim's contributions, time, and friendship are greatly appreciate by all who call HomeBrewTalk home!

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7 COMMENTS
Posted: 
August 1, 2014  •  11:50 AM
Completely agree on controlling temps...lost several batches to the Texas heat.
 
Posted: 
August 1, 2014  •  12:13 PM
Homercidal: Man, Myth, Legend
 
Posted: 
August 1, 2014  •  03:06 PM
A fellow fan of Dr. Who!!! awesome Tardis mini frige, i really want the same one!
 
Posted: 
August 1, 2014  •  06:10 PM
Nice Tardis man that rig is SWEET!!!! Also great interview. Homercidal has given me a few tips here and there kinda in passing I would say. I don't know about the rest of you but when I see moderator I think Dang that man (or woman) Must know their stuff. It's nice to hear how they got started and their hicups along the way. Keep um Coming!!!
 
Posted: 
August 1, 2014  •  08:20 PM
Coolest beer fridge evah!
 
Posted: 
August 3, 2014  •  09:30 PM
A TARDIS fridge earns my highest admiration. I guess you can do some accelerated lagering in that thing.
 
Posted: 
August 31, 2014  •  08:47 AM
Good interview and good questions asked. Re: wort chilling, how do you (or anyone else) feel about running the post-boil through 50' of copper immersed in an ice bath, jockey box style, draining the water and replenishing the ice as it melts? I figure the time needed would be equivalent or faster to immersion or CFC methods plus the amount of water consumption would be greatly reduced. A test cooling 5 gallons boiled water down to average of 60 used about 10 lbs or so of ice (all I had on hand). Even at 20-40 lbs needed to chill, that's still only 2-5 gallons water used. Thoughts, criticisms?
 
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