Have you been to HomeBrewTalk? Then you know who Yooper is. There are few names in the brewing world that need little to no introduction, and although you may not know her real name (It’s Lorena) you know her username and the trade mark dominatrix avatar that punctuates her post (Most of the Time). One of the more influential members and brewers, it was my pleasure to sit down with this Queen of Brewing for our Brew and A, Legends in Brewing.
And her very first post here to HomeBrewTalk
Brand new brewer questions
TxBrew: How did you start brewing?
Lorena: I had been making wine for quite a while, and I enjoyed that but beer seemed way too “hard”. Perhaps it was the boil (wine doesn’t generally get heated), or the various ingredients like hops that were unfamiliar to me but my perception was that beer making was for pros. My teammate broke my leg during a hockey game by skating into me, and I was laid up for nearly 18 months during recovery. By day three, I was bored out of my mind. I had tried the “Beer Machine 2000” back in, well, 2000, and the beer out of that was terrible. But since I had the winemaking gear, and a lot of time, I gave it another try. I bought a Brewer’s Best pre-packaged kit, and brewed on my stovetop while on crutches. It was easy enough, and the beer was actually pretty good- and I was hooked.
Some of last fall’s wine:
TxBrew: What’s your favorite wine? What do you brew more of beer or wine?
Lorena: That’s a hard question! My favorite wine style is cabernet franc, but I don’t really have a favorite vintner. I do love the cab francs of Michigan’s Mission Peninsula, but a few years ago I was introduced to the ones in New York’s Finger Lakes area (by the_bird and PaultheNurse) and those are great as well. Gallon wise, I may make more wine than beer but I haven’t really tried to figure that out. It may be close!
TxBrew: What’s your favorite beer?
Lorena: I don’t have a particular favorite, by my favorite styles are always hoppy styles. I’d say that American IPA is probably my favorite style when I walk into a brewpub and I’m most likely to order that.
TxBrew: Who makes your favorite American IPA? What’s your favorite IPA recipe?
Lorena: My favorite commercial IPA varies- a good local one is by Tribute Brewing Company in Eagle River, Wisconsin, but I love Lakefront’s (Milwaukee) and I’d put Surly Furious at the top as well. I have two favorite recipes, totally different from each other. One is homegrown hops, with a little victory malt, and one is a traditional simcoe/amarillo hopped IPA like my DFH 60 minute clone recipe.
TxBrew: What’s one piece if your brew setup you can’t live without?
Lorena: A pump, I think! As I get older, I appreciate not doing the heavy lifting as much any more and it makes my brewdays more tolerable. Still, I’ve been putting my setup together for years and I really have tweaked it to get exactly what I want when I need it so it would be difficult to give up any part of it.
TxBrew: What’s the worst product you’ve ever used?
Lorena: Cooper’s kits. No question. Maybe the second worst was John Bull prehopped canned extract.
TxBrew: What did you hate about the Cooper’s Kit?
Lorena: The thing I found frustrating was that even by exactly following the package directions you can’t make a very good product. It never occurred to me that I shouldn’t actually follow the directions, and to google it. Maybe if I had found this forum first, I could have made a drinkable product but it wasn’t likely from the instructions.
TxBrew: Why do you homebrew?
Lorena: Partly I brew at home because of where I live. In no-man’s-beer-land, it’s difficult to even find a selection of good craft beer. There are wonderful Michigan breweries, but many don’t distribute “above the bridge”. There are wonderful Wisconsin breweries, where our distributors are from as a rule, but many don’t distribute out of Wisconsin. So I find myself unable to get even “local”ish craft beer. That, and I like being sort of a “hippie” type- growing my own food, hunting, making my own soap to avoid chemicals, etc, and there is great satisfaction in walking up and pouring yourself a homemade beer, from homegrown hops, out of a homemade kegerator!
Bob with some of our homegrown cascade hops (and some in the background) last fall.
TxBrew: Your varying crafts are impressive. What started you down this path? Is it all part of the Yooper spirit? How do you find time to get everything accomplished?
Lorena: I’m not sure why I became interested in homemade crafts. It wasn’t in my nature as a young person. But once I started by hunting and fishing, then growing my own food, it stirred something in me. I buy little from the grocery store, and enjoy a real freedom by doing things for myself. I guess that is what ignited my passion for brewing and winemaking, and then soapmaking and other hobbies came about naturally. Luckily, I’m semi-(mostly) retired and have time to do things that I did not have time for when I was younger.
TxBrew: What’s your homebrewing style – extract, partial mash, all-grain, biab, or ?
Lorena: All electric 10 gallon single tier HERMS, indoors.
My friend Leon (lschiavo on this forum) did most of the work on this- the control panel, the HLT, the bottom draining MLT, etc, gradually as I changed it from what I had. I did put the stickers on all by myself.
TxBrew: You need more stickers. Do you have a brew room, or does your rig live in your bedroom with you and Bob, as a member of the family?
Lorena: Ha! My rig is growing up nicely, and has gone from a baby to a toddler, and now to an adolescent. I don’t know if it will ever be ‘done’. He lives in my first floor laundry room, because he’s been known to make a mess.
TxBrew: Tell us about one of your most memorable homebrewing experiences
Lorena: At my first National Homebrewers Conference, Ray Daniels stood next to me, drinking my IPA and telling me that he loved it and asked for some more. That really sticks out in my mind!
TxBrew: That is impressive. I’m sure people feel that way when they are sitting next to you drinking a beer though. You went to the NHC this year. Did you have a good time? Anything you can share from the conference?
Lorena: I always learn new things at the NHC! Either I am a slow learner, or there is always more to learn in this hobby. I always have a great time. Part of it is being introduced to the beer scene in a new city, and part of it is the fellowship of other homebrewers and the camaraderie. I think that is what I would like to tell others- even if you attend by yourself, very shortly you will have new friends and be filled with new ideas!
TxBrew: Describe the perfect beer – style, aroma, flavor, etc.
Lorena: I appreciate a lot of variety in beers, but as a BJCP judge, I tend to deconstruct the beer according to style guidelines. I’m not a beer Nazi, necessarily , but for me “the perfect beer” would be one that is the perfect example of a certain style. I don’t think I’ve ever had “the perfect beer”, but an example to me is Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald- it’s “the” robust porter and I really enjoy that beer.
TxBrew: Have you ever had a beer in a competition that made you want the recipe (Blew your mind? I’m not coming up with a great way of wording that right now, but you get what I’m getting at.)?
Lorena: Yes! I have judged a few competitions where I tasted such a great example of the style that I did want the recipe. One was a sweet stout, and it was quite memorable. Months later, I was at a NHC and I ‘recognized’ that beer, believe it or not. It was by a brewer near Marshfield, Wisconsin, and I found him at the NHC and told him that I remembered his beer from a competition I judged and enjoyed it again. It was a pleasure meeting him in person!
TxBrew: What’s your dream brew rig, and how would you assemble it?
Lorena: I don’t really have a vision of a dream brew rig, but I have a vision of an ideal fermentation area. Glycol heating and cooling conical fermenters so that I never have to lift another carboy in my entire life would be a dream!
TxBrew: What is the one piece of advice you wish someone would’ve giving you when you first started?
Oh, I know that I probably did get that. I read “The Joy of Homebrewing”. But I obsessed about so many things anyway. Now, I am still quite a stickler for detail but far more relaxed about most things concerning beer. After all, it’s only beer. You can make more!
I very much appreciate Lorena taking the time to answer my question. There’s a lot more to her and her story so if you have any questions of your own I highly suggest posting them into the comments section.