Brew & A: Andrew "Billy-Klubb" Knapp

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Have you seen this man?
If so that there is Andrew Knapp, known to the brewing world as Billy-Klubb. A regular contributor and all around great guy, I stole a few minutes of his time to get to know more about the man and the brewer.
TxBrew: Lets get some history. How did you start brewing?
Andrew: A machinist I worked with in Las Vegas mentioned that he needed to bottle that night. When he said it was home made beer I got excited. I knew both of my grandpas brewed beer & wine between the 30's & 70's, but never gave it much thought. This guy invited me over for a brew & bottle session and I knew that was what I wanted to do.
TxBrew: Do you know anything about your brewing legacy? Any recipes passed down?
Andrew: Without getting too deep into family history, I don't know much about my paternal grandpas dad, but he was a notoriously mean drunk and a "runner" all through prohibition. My grandpa (born 1919) was raised by his grandparents since 1920 under the belief both his parents were dead, even though his mother & half siblings lived in the same town. He ended up becoming a "runner" himself. Even though prohibition had ended, there was still a demand for the "untaxed" in western NE and SW SD. He gave it up some time after he and my granny got married, but he started brewing his own beer in the late 1930's. He and my granny continued to to brew their own until the mid 1970's.
Their standard recipe isn't very exciting: 2 cans of Malted Barley Syrup, table sugar, water, and bread yeast. they used to add a shot of vodka or everclear to each bottle for a little kick. my dad and a few of my uncles said he even added some NE "lightning" from time to time. About 10 years ago, some of my uncles were talking about it and said there's still some bottles in the bottom of the well at the old farm outside of Alliance, NE. Find Car Henge and you're getting close. My other grandpa toyed with wine through the 1960's & 70's. He tried his hand at beer a few times. His wife did not approve and he left no recipes, but he always seemed proud that I was brewing, that I love brewing, and was making decent beer.
TxBrew: What's your favorite beer?
Andrew: Hahaa! It would probably be faster to list what beers aren't my favorite!
TxBrew: Which beers aren't your favorite? Any you like less than others?
Andrew: Most overly popular American Lagers and their Light versions, and most American Hefeweizens I've had either taste like soap to me or they go overboard with fruit additions to the point it's like drinking candy, but I have had many home brewed versions that are OK in my book.
TxBrew: What's one piece of your brew setup you can't live without?
Andrew: The unsung hero of all my brew days, my wife. No matter what happens on a brew day, she'll take care of it so I can keep doing what I'm doing.
TxBrew: That's awesome! So does she help you directly with brewing, or just makes sure you have the time and space you need to get it accomplished? It seems we have a good mix of brewers who have their SO's around, and those that throw them out.
Andrew: She has helped directly with the brewing and bottling, but not really her thing. When I need the time/space, she always makes sure I can do my thing. She really is wonderful and patient with the time involved especially after I started AG, and if there's something I want (like a chest freezer or CO2 distributor) she'll convince me that I should have it.
TxBrew: What's the worst product you've ever used?
Andrew: Nothing comes to mind. I'm so awesome with pure unadulterated awesomeness that it just rubs off on everything around me... or I'm too dumb to figure out that it sucks. I'm not sure on that one.
TxBrew: You don't have one thing that you smashed on the ground... out of frustration?
Andrew: Not yet. the closest thing I can think of is the wing capper. I'm just not a fan of those.
TxBrew: Why do you homebrew?
It's my art, my craft. I love being able to use an ever shifting canvas to reflect, in a multidimensional media, all the stability, chaos, love, anger, joy, abstract imagination through sight, aroma, and taste. to me, it's liquid marble. a painting that's always changing a little at a time. an endless song that just knows exactly what you want to hear.
TxBrew: How do you decide on what you're going to brew?
It varies. Sometimes I base my brews off my general outlook on humanity & society (the more aggressive takes on any style), but mostly it's just my general mood. I can be a bitter and jaded person and tend to brew American Pales and American IPAs. When I feel the need for adventure and exploration, I'll brew up stuff like a Rose Hip Saison, a Belgian Strong with Horehound, or just a style I haven't brewed yet. Gose is on that list. If the sweet, lovey side has been influencing me, then I tend to brew the maltier styles.
TxBrew: What's your homebrewing style - extract, partial mash, all-grain, biab, or ?
Andrew: I brewed with extract for 13 years, and have been all grain for 2 years now.
TxBrew: Any tips for those looking to make the transition? It seems to be a regular theme that new brewers especially find All Grain daunting.
Just jump in. It's not near a difficult as it seems. If I knew 15 years ago how easy it really was, I'd have started AG brewing 14 years ago.
TxBrew: What is your most memorable homebrewing experience?
Andrew: I went to a punk rock show on Sunrise Mountain in Vegas about 2 months into brewing. I brought 12 bombers of a Sweet Stout I was experimenting with, only I forgot to mark the bottles. I added creme de menthe to some, creme de cocoa to others, and the rest were left alone. I didn't think anything about the extra sugars in the liqueurs and bottled all of them with with the priming solution, and some with the liqueurs. I was getting a laugh watching some of these punks pop a top & trying to drink it as fast as it was gushing out. Then it happened to me. I tried to keep up, but ended up covered in that over carbed sticky creme de menthe mess. I learned an important lesson: crusty street punks will drink anything.

TxBrew: What have you done with that lesson?
Andrew: I used to have a lot of after bar parties to get rid of beer I thought was mediocre. To a lot of my friends, it was better than MHL. I think it really helped me to become a better brewer. some of them, despite their gutter appearance and lifestyle, did have a discerning palate. I quickly realized which ones they were and not only wanted to impress myself but impress them as well. A few of them started brewing once they found out how great home brew can be. they gave me credit for their start. I just showed them the door, they opened it and walked through.
TxBrew: Describe the perfect beer - style, aroma, flavor, etc.
Andrew: I can't. I'm still searching for the perfect beer. For some reason, I think it might be Belgian.
TxBrew: What makes you think that? Are you partial to Belgian Brews?
Andrew: I don't believe there is a perfect beer. There is always something in the ingredients or process that could make it just a little better, and as a brewer it is my obligation to find out what it is. I will never brew the perfect beer, but I must try. I joke about the styles I'm not partial to and it's easier to list them, but I am more partial to Belgian styles even though I've been brewing a lot of Pales & IPAs.
TxBrew: What's your dream brew rig, and how would you assemble it?

Andrew: I really can't think of anything. I'm happy with my cooler set up. A fancy brew rig doesn't necessarily mean a better beer, but let me expand a little here.
I like the limited set up I have. Any and every flaw and/or imperfection adds to learning experience and gives each brew its own personality. I'm not looking to recreate the same brews repeatedly. I'll leave that up to the big boys and my peers. If a particular brew stands out for me, I'll brew it again. What I'm wanting to brew is a cornucopia filled with unique personalities. I feel that with my limited set up, I'm another step closer to doing that.
TxBrew: What is the one piece of advice you wish someone would've given you when you first started?
Andrew: Watch your fermentation temps. They can make or break your brew.
Billy's Bonus Round: Don't limit yourself to your own imagination. Abuse the hell out of everyone else's' imagination as well.
TxBrew: I love it. So you go looking for ideas from your friends and loved ones?
Andrew: Not actively, but something will seem to catch my attention. Then I get that need for adventure. To me, it's like an author that reads only the books they've written. Their work will become stagnant and self centered, but if that author explores the works and ideas of others, only then can they grow and expand on the confines of their own work. Inspiration comes from all around. I intend to exploit it to the best of my abilities and I urge everyone else to do the same.
Step out of line. You can't party if the room is single file.
It was a pleasure to sit down with Andrew. We are all as unique as the beers we brew. Sharing the spirit of innovation, design, and all while keeping a solid eye on tradition I look forward to getting to know more about the brewers that make up HomeBrewTalk and the rest of the brewing world. Next week I sit down with Randy Mosher who answers our questions on everything from his own brewing experience to what to expect in the coming decades of brewing.
I always figured you were the wild man of home brewing. But having some tradition is always cool. My step-grandpa was a runner too. Boy, could he drive! I also agree that we're only limited by our own imagination. And looking at your name & how you are reminds me of the comic strip guy "'andy Kapp"...
"It's my art, my craft. I love being able to use an ever shifting canvas to reflect, in a multidimensional media, all the stability, chaos, love, anger, joy, abstract imagination through sight, aroma, and taste. to me, it's liquid marble. a painting that's always changing a little at a time. an endless song that just knows exactly what you want to hear."
That's awesome.
thanks guys! I had fun! a big thanks to TxBrew for this opportunity! I don't give a lot of good advice or information since so many people here have more great information than me on most any subject, but I love being here and being a good natured smart mouth with my fellow brewers!
unionrdr, my grandpa used to call me "Gump" from a comic strip when he was young, "Andy Gump".
"I'm so awesome with pure unadulterated awesomeness that it just rubs off on everything around me"
Lol. Best interview yet! You're the man BK
Awesome interview, that was a fun read.
But, you missed the most important question, and consequently there is still no explanation of all the skulls. I will continue to assume that they are trophies harvested from the corpses of Billy's fallen enemies, strategically placed in all photos of Billy's SWMBO as a warning to the others.
Floccin' pterodactyls....