10 Questions For A Homebrewer

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1. How did you start brewing?
I've been a beer "nerd" and owned a kegerator for many years before I started brewing. I remember one night looking up the reviews on a beer I had purchased at my local bottle store and stumbled across a recipe for this beer on line. It was like a light when off in the room....."You mean I can make something like the craft beer I was tasting?" To be honest I didn't believe it. I mean, we've all heard stories about bath tub gin and crappy beer made from cans of extract, but I'm the type of person that likes to research things before I purchase and I learned that people actually were making good beer at home. Hell, if some were to be believed, they were making great beer. So I talked myself into buying a starter kit. During my brewing research I discovered HBT and watched hours of you tube videos, so I went into my first brew not fearing too much. The beer came out fantastic, and I never looked back.

A Kegerator For Conditioning And Serving Beer
2. What's you favorite beer?
My tastes have changed over the years and it's hard to narrow down a favorite beer or style. If I had to choose though, it would be a good American IPA. Not insanely hoppy, but not a wimp either.
3. What's one piece of your brew setup you can't live without?
Right now I'd have to say my RIMS. Not just the tube itself, but the controller too. Thanks to Sawdustguy and his HBT thread "RIMS for dummies," I was able to build something I never would have attempted by myself. I made some great beers with my trusty 10 gallon cooler, but the ability to maintain mash temp for any duration has made the brewing process worry free.

Start Out Right With A Good Grain Crush
A close second to my RIMS would have to be my water filter/RV hose setup for getting water to my rig. My back really appreciates not having to lug buckets of water from the house over to the garage and then dump the water into the HLT. Did I mention my back is now happy?
4. What's the worst product you've ever used?
I'll be unpopular for this, but I've actually tossed gallons of beer down the drain because of S-04 yeast. I've tried to like this yeast, I've wanted to like this yeast....but I just can't. I've brewed it cold, I've let it brew warm. My palette can detect the twang from English yeast, including Nottingham, WLP 002, etc. It's gotten to the point that my dislike of these yeasts ruins trips to brewpubs that use English yeasts, and it's gotten worse over time. It's not a reflection of the product, just of my personal taste. For every beer I've dumped because of it, I've given just as much away to friends that think I'm crazy. Maybe I am....

Maintain Temperature Control During Fermentation
5. Why do you homebrew?
I homebrew for several reasons. I love to cook and I love good beer. The two hobbies kinda morph into one out in the garage and in my basement. I know we usually tell noobs that you don't get into homebrewing to save money, but it's also another reason I brew. I can make the equivalent of a sixel of craft IPA for half the price of a commercial beer (of course we don't discuss things like equipment overhead with the spouse). Around here, a sixel of Stone IPA is around 90 bucks + deposit. Also, I get the satisfaction of seeing people's faces when they try my brews and I smile back and say "Yep, I made that!"
6. What's your homebrewing style - extract, partial mash, all-grain, biab, or ?
Like most I started out with extract kits. I completed two extracts before I moved to partial mashes. I cooked a couple of those on the stove and the wife said that I had to move the operation out of the house. So, I went all grain by first using HBT to build my 10 gallon round cooler mash tun. Then a few years ago, I decided I needed to control my mash temps better. Brewing in the garage year round made that a necessity. I built my RIMs setup on an old 55 gallon aquarium stand. I brew 10 gallon batches with a friend. We built him a keezer a few years ago. So now we split the cost of supplies and he does the cleaning for 5 gallons of beer. We both think we got the best ends of the deal.
7. Tell us about one of your most memorable homebrewing experiences
The most memorable experiences are the ones where we have people over to socialize (have a party), and the only adult beverage supplied for 20-30 people is mine and mine alone. Friends don't bother bringing their own "stash" anymore. Even though my friend's taste in beer ranges wildly, they know that with 6 taps flowing ....I'll have something they will enjoy.

Kegerators Come In All Sizes
8. Describe the perfect beer - style, aroma, flavor, etc.
That's a tough one. I'm not one of those guys that right reviews on beer advocate or anything. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, it's just not me. The perfect beer for me is an IPA, or APA with a nice hop balance. I love the aroma/taste of Simcoe and Amarillo. In fact I've pretty much perfected a light, simple, crisp IPA that's all Amarillo. I keep that on tap always.

Brewing For The Love Of Brewing
9. What's your dream brew rig, and how would you assemble it?
My dream rig? If money was no object? I simply drool over the Electric Brewery site. His home brewery is insane. I wouldn't know where to start. Of course, if money was no object, I'd have a home big enough to put all that in.
10. What is the one piece of advice you wish someone would've giving you when you first started?
The importance of temperature and aeration. I'm sure that the information was available, it's just that when your just starting out, you have so much information that you have to prioritize, but those two items are critical to making great beer; both are the difference between a beer stalling at the dreaded 1.020 mark, or fermenting down to where you want/think the beer should be.
Another piece of advice..... Your commercial beer experience will change as well. You'll learn over time to taste flaws in commercial beers. It happens.....


Splitting a batch with someone who does all the cleaning is a GREAT deal, provided they do a good job of it. I'm with you on that one!
I hate S-04 as well. Smells like bubblegum when fermenting (yes, even cold and controlled) and gets a bitter twang I don't like about 4-6 weeks after bottling/kegging no matter what. (No, it's not an infection!) However, Nottingham has it's place in dry dark beers. (It's okay in a stout, for example.) The twang isn't nearly as bad.. but overall, I agree. S-04 by far is my least favorite product of all time. Many of the beers I've given away, however, people like that twang... a lot....
Nice read! I'm gonna have to look through my spreadsheet of brews and see if S-04 is making a trend in my beer. And I too like the sharing of responsibilities on brew day.
I might be with you on the English yeast strands, my second batch was a Porter kit which contained Notthingham yeast, I can still taste that over the dark roasted flavors. Out of 5 batches so far, that's easily my worst.
I've stuck to US-05 since then, although eventually I'll give it a second chance (Just not on a porter).
Great article! I love that you make beer you like, with the yeast you like, and the way you like it. That's why I like brewing, and hopefully when my new rig is finished I can pursue that special beer that I made and I just can't buy anywhere, that I like to drink.
Nice article though we can agree to disagree on English yeasts.
Minor nit, I think you don't write for beer advocate.
I dont get the hate on English yeast... i use notty all the time. now if you said S05 then id agree 100%. i hate that chico yeast.
I am actually finding that the taste I didn't like when making my first 5-6 batches of beer that I thought where the grain, or the temp, or whatever, was actually the S-04... I loved all my beers using S-05. I had started wondering if it was in fact the yeast, and your (and the others commenting on this post) brought it to light.
So you don't like English beers. Personally I quite enjoy English beers. My favorite yeast to use for them is probably Wyeast 1469 - West Yorkshire. For stouts I'll stick with 1084 - Irish Ale. The yeast must match the recipe profile.
For the record, most of my friends think I'm crazy when I say I don't like a particular beer I brewed with English yeast. It's my palette that is the problem. I used to love it. I used 002 in a lot of my brews, but one day the twang got me and never went away. This is my sickness (and some others)....and I would never discourage someone from using 04 or any yeast. That's how I learned to brew. If you don't try something, there's no way to know if you'll like or hate it! Cheers!!
Interesting notes...
I do BIAB, and have to honestly say I've never had a brew day or batch of beer where everything went perfect. Gravity was off from the plan, this was off, that was off...despite my hard work to have everything perfect. But when it has come time to drink, every batch of beer has turned out very, very good!
I love going out to microbreweries and drinking other people's beer. It's like, the more you like food and cooking awesome food recipes, the more you want to eat other good chefs food. But the stuff we homebrewers make is VERY top notch. I have a love affair going with German and Czech Pilsners. And think the stuff that I make at home is better than most of the microbreweries' creations (most of which are way better than the macro-beers...). I love drinking really good beer!!! Got to give ourselves a little pat on the backs sometimes... :)
Is this set up like Brew & A, or is it just me? Great to see more articles like this, anyway. I Think S-04 has it's place in the grand scheme of things. But the yeast should indeed match the style being produced. I've been trying to branch out myself. And I agree that when one is first starting out, there's a lot of information buzzin' around your head, that you have to take it a step at a time with what's important at the moment. Saving your back from agony is always a good thing. I've been trying to add more back-saving items to my lil brewery. I like your outlook on the hobbie. Keep brewin'!
I dislike the blandness and dry finish of the S-05 yeast, and the S-04 doesn't have enough character (or "twang") for my favoured kinds of ale.
I've tried lagering, and it's just more trouble than it's worth, apart from rather special Pilsners and the like - but it has to wait until winter when my fermenters will be empty for long enough. As for the over-hopped, high ABV APAs; well, actually I am developing a bit of a taste for our local versions. I am starting to get the hang of Ella and Galaxy.
My favourite go-to is an ESB based on old records of Tetley's Bitter, which I like to brew with Wyeast 1968 at 22C (72F) - it is well worth the diacetyl rest to get that nice balance of maltiness and fruitiness against the East Kent Goldings.
As the Buddha said: As many men, as many ways...