Brew & A: Leonard "Unionrdr" Cogar

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What were you doing when you were 15? Playing Game Boy, pushing a hoop with a stick (I don't know how old you are), trying to convince your parents to up your allowance right? Not if you're Leonard Cogar known to HomeBrewTalk as Unionrdr. A man of many interest with the history in brewing a lot of us long for, Leonard started making wine when he was 15. You read that right, fifteen.
Whether you come from a tradition of brewing like Leonard does, or you just got started on your first extract kit, brewers like Leonard aren't born, their made. Tempered in the fires of Prohibition, quenched in the moonshine of his Grandmother's making, molded and shaped by the likes of HomeBrewTalk and other brewers, and turned loose unto the brewing world, I sat down to get to know Leonard Cogar in this week's Brew & A.


Austin
: How did you start brewing?
Leonard: My father made wine, and tried brewing beer back when I was a middle teenager. My grandma made moonshine and wine. I literally cut teeth on her keg charred moon. My step grandad, "Pap" as he insisted on being called, was a "runner", so I've got alkyhol for blood.
I started making wine at about 15 with a 1 gallon wine kit Pop never got around to. He said I could try it if I wanted. It came out so good that he loved showing it off to my uncles, aunts, etc. I made wines till about age 30.
Flash forward 20 some years. I retired in 2007. My wife and I were sitting down one Friday afternoon to drink some beers and watch YouTube videos back in December 2010. Our middle son walks in and out of the blue asks why I don't start making wine again. I then explained how I got tired of waiting a year to taste the fruits of my labors. Hey, I'm picky that way. Besides we liked beer more at that point anyway so we decided to look for videos of what home brewing looks like these days. I thought to myself, "Wow! It's that easy? Cool! We gotta try this!". We watched Craigtube, Steeljan, John M and a few others and couldn't believe how much time had changed this sort of thing. So we got our Cooper's Micro Brew kit in January, 2011. I brewed the OS Lager kit that came with it. I signed up on here on HomeBrewTalk, February 19, 2011. Even with some noob mistakes, it conditioned out rather well. I was hooked after that, especially since my wife liked the ale I produced. GOOOOAAAAAL!

Austin: Wow! Anyone in your family spent time in the slammer? That's an amazing back story.
Leonard: None of them were ever caught! My step grandpa drove those WV Mountains like Fangio up until I was a young teen on his Watkins route. Still the "runner"! Grandma made white lightnin' and keg charred up until then as well. I wound up in the county slammer once for trying to defend one of my sons, a heart patient, from some thugs up the street that beat him up and tossed him into the street!
Austin: Your story keeps getting better! What's your favorite beer?
Leonard: Well, I like a lot of different beers for different reasons. But I definitely have to say it's an American IPA. I was reminded of this recently after not having brewed one in a while. I picked up a 6'r of Southern Tier's 2XIPA and it reminded me of one of my earlier IPA experiments and besides that fact I needed to brew another one soon. I missed all that hoppiness! It definitely has a refreshing quality all its own.
Austin: So you're a hop fanatic? Are there any other hop based products you enjoy? Candy?
Leonard: I haven't really tried hop candy, but it sounds interesting. I'm planning a lightly hopped malt vinegar at the moment so I'm trying to learn more about that on a 1 gallon scale.
Austin: What's one piece of your brew setup you can't live without?
Leonard: Boy, is that a loaded question! I'd have to say it's a tossup between my bottle tree with avinator and my Super Agata bench capper. All made by Ferrari! Hey, I've got three Ferrari's, lol, but there are a lot of little things that I've collected up that make brewing life easier.
Things like two floating thermometers, one for the mash and one for the sparge water, a bucket lid opener and rubber mallet to save my hands and fingers when getting those tight-fitting lids on and off. A cheap folding table from Walmart for a bottling table is handy too, and the old, large printer stand I re-purposed as a fermenter stand/storage unit. The chrome steel shelf keeps things dry and at an easier level to reach, and of course, my 1000mL Erlenmeyer flask for re-hydrating yeast or starters. It makes that job easier I think. I believe in just getting whatever makes the job easier and/or quicker without being too expensive. You have to be realistic with money when you have a family to think about as well.
Austin: Are you big into DIY? What have you made yourself?
Leonard: I converted an old, large printer stand into a fermentation stand and storage unit to get all my brewing stuff in one place. Before then, it was all over the first floor of the house. Needless to say, SWMBO was pleased. I was cleaning out the entire room, then the old printer stand, when she came in and said, "Oh, you're cleaning!" with a big smile on her face. GOOOOAAAAL! I bought a folding table from Wallyworld to bottle on, and a chromed steel wire shelf to gather other things up off the floor. It's on the cover of my first homebrewing book.
Austin: What's the worst product you've ever used?
Leonard: Hmm. Well, that bottle of Cooper's Sanitizer crystal would be one. Mixed with water, it smells just like bleach solution and must be rinsed. If you have to rinse it, then why bother? You're risking putting back what you were trying to sanitize to begin with in my opinion. And that darn dial gauge thermometer that clips onto the kettle. The dial turns around, negating whatever setting you had to start with. Seems to me I'd have to know the start temp of the water, and then set it. I switched back to using a floating thermometer and no worries since.
I'm not a fan of "S" type airlocks either. They are too hard to clean.
Austin: Why do you homebrew?
Leonard: Well, initially it was because it cost me far less per bottle to brew my own favorites or likes in a beer. Then my tastes expanded into areas I never considered much before. But the number one reason I started homebrewing was that I missed what I can only describe as that "real beer flavor" from lagers and pilsners from the 50's and 60's.
They had some combination of water type, malts and hops that gave more of that balanced beer flavor that I instantly fell in love with. I still really want to reproduce that flavor quality in a batch. I think I learned a couple things about what it'll take with my series of light and dark hybrid lagers. I also enjoy experimenting with old or extinct beer styles. I find it fascinating to try reproducing an archaic style.
Austin: What beers coming out of the 50's and 60's do you remember fondly? Have you tried to clone one?
Leonard: I liked POC, Stroh's (with the label seen in Shawshank Redemption), Carling black label, Schlitz, Schmitz and a few others still brewed in the Cleveland area at the time. I was always impressed with their balance of malt and hop flavors. My "Hopped and Confused" hybrid lagers are my initial attempts at getting those flavors with WL029 Kolsch yeast. I'm getting closer, as they have a Euro kind of flavor to them at present. I'm thinking of trying some German malts and A European yeast variety and see how that works.
Austin: What's your homebrewing style-extract, partial mash, all grain, biab, or?
Leonard: Well, I started out with kit-n-kilo type brews, like the Cooper's OS Lager kit that came with my Micro Brew set. Then I started adding hop teas, then plain light DME in the boil for proper hop additions. Then I went to partial boil, partial mash brew in a bag more than a year ago. Early on, I also started late extract additions. It definitely gave lighter color and cleaner flavor to my beers. I still jump back and forth between brewing styles as time or weather permits. I'm still rather traditional about when to brew what, since temp control is still a bit expensive for me, but you have to work around what you have and it works so far. Patience is a big part of the process as well.
Austin: What's the last beer you brewed?
Leonard: The last beer I brewed was Version two of the Dampfbier recipe I found in BYO that was either AG or AE. I converted it to partial mash and tried it out. It was golden, rather than a light amber/orange and the yeast listed was the wrong one to get the bubblegum esters in the old German original. Version two saw some malt changes along with a German hefe yeast said to get that particular ester. Color is very close, with some gum-like esters on the back. I have another of MoreBeer's ESB E/SG kits waiting in the wings. The balance on that one is so good I didn't have the heart to change the recipe!
Austin: Tell us about one of your most memorable homebrewing experiences?
Leonard: The one that still comes to mind is when my wife got interested in trying to brew a batch around tax time a couple years ago. She asked if she could come in the shop with me?! I had to go to JW Dover, our lhbs, to get some things. They had a whole new batch of Brewer's Best kits on the shelf and she started looking at them intently. I told her to take a look and pick out which ever one looked like something she'd like to drink/try brewing. She picked out the Summer Ale kit. I was told it's supposed to be like the original Shock Top. Since we both liked that one she chose it. So on brew day, she was stirring the kettle while I taught her the steps as we went along. She was doing a hop addition and stirring that when one of the boys yelled for her attention with something. I forget what. But she yelled back, " I can't! I'm making beer!". Definitely one of those, " aw, shucks" moments. You gotta love those homebrewer's Kodak moments. Too bad they took my Kodachrome away!
Another one is when I sent a couple bottles of my "summer ale" to Gary at Home Brewer TV. I bought some ingredients at JW Dover again and got home to find the Cooper's OS lager can was 2 years old! I brewed it up anyway. It came out the color and flavor of the Salvator Doppelbock I like so much. He sampled the beer on episode #38 and kept sipping it and talking about it. I beat a commercial ale by getting the full 3 thumbs up! I was pert as a ruttin' buck over that! And to think it was only my 2nd brew.
Austin: Does your wife routinely brew with you now? How about your kids?
Leonard: My wife's gestational diabetes caught up with her and she can't drink anymore, as it makes her sick for some reason, but she and the boys still help me on brew or bottling days. Sometimes I just need an extra hand, or I have the boys haul the heavy brew kettle into the brewery/man cave for me.
Austin: Describe the perfect beer-style, aroma, flavor, etc?
Leonard: Well, I guess I still have to say it'd be that elusive lager/pilsner with that "real beer flavor" from the old days. Not too sweet, not too bitter, not too hoppy, just that great balance of flavors that the old school beers had. Nice golden color too on the lagers, straw gold for the pilsners, generally, maybe less crystal malt and more Bavarian malt or something? I'll know it when I taste it. They live now, only in my memories. But the ones I always keep tweaking are pale ales and IPA's. So much variety in grains and hops, I just can't seem to stop getting so many different nuances. I love'em!

Austin: What's your dream brew rig and how would you assemble it?
Leonard: After writing my first book, a dystopian Sci-Fi story about a possible Orwellian future where a homebrewer winds up running a small brewery for the ruling class, I'd have to say one of those Blichmann sorts of 3 kettle rigs. What I describe in the story that Pete Kroeger brews on has been changing my mind about stovetop brewing and everything that goes with it. All automated pumps so I don't have to do a bunch of heavy lifting at my age, and that hydraulic lift cart thing from Harbor Freight and tools where the table part goes up and down. Then I would need a good plate chiller to run into the fermenter on the lift cart. I would then find a way to get it up the couple of stairs from the garage to the man cave in front of the house, or what I'd really rather have, an exhaust hood set up in the man cave for the brew rig and a utility sink as well, then I could do it all in one place with little lifting. A couple gallons of concentrated wort is heavy when you have a bad Lumbar and hips!
Austin: What is the one piece of advice you wish someone would've given you when you first started?
Leonard: Hm...Well, build some kind of temperature controlled cabinet or something to keep initial ferment temps in check, and to develop a good brewing process asap by getting a book on home brewing before asking a lot of questions. Try mashing, at least as a partial mash experimental beer earlier on. It's not as hard or mysterious as many of us previously thought.
Also, keep a brewing notebook with as many facts as you can. Including your experiences while brewing, bottling, tasting, etc. This sort of thing is now allowing me to write a book about my journey through this happy madness!
Most of all though, relax, don't worry, and have a homebrew! Learning PATIENCE right from the start is the single most important thing I can pass on. Beyond that, if it's one thing I've learned after joining HBT is this; we are the Home Brewers. You will be assimilated...resistance is futile!
Austin: Some members may already know, and you mentioned it in this interview, but you are an author. Can you tell us more about your books and where we can find them?

The cover to Leonard's book on brewing, Tippy Tippy Tappy
Leonard: Yes, I am an author on amazon/Kindle. I've completed book one of my dystopian sci-fi series,
Time Lords 2034:The Alternate Prometheus, found here; (US link)-
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NTA0L6G
I also wrote a book about my homebrewing experiences up to this point with link-backs to this sight, for example. It's called Tippy Tippy Tappy: A Journey Into Homebrewing, found here;
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PBAP6JO

The homebrewing book also contains definitions and recipes, history and humor that I've encountered in this happy madness. The dystopian sci-fi books are basically about a homebrewer that finds himself running a small brewery for the well-heeled class running this planet of FEMA camps and The New World Order. Sort of an Orwellian 4th Reich world the beginnings of which are all over YouTube now.
Book two of the sci-fi series is being written now. It's tentatively titled; Time Lords 2034: The New Camelot. I will say that "The Tall Man" (anyone remember him?) comes back to life as a different sort of character. A walking disease that comes back to haunt Pete Kroeger and his group, not to mention all of mankind. I'm also writing a second book on homebrewing, titled Tippy Tippy Tappy II: Historic Styles and Struggles. This one will take longer to write, as it'll contain updates of beers I've brewed in the first book revisited.
***
Leonard is a man of the ages, sending his brewing ambitions and experience to the future in the form of novels and stories. Our stories speak of our culture, and are revelations into our existence. What will brewers think of us after a couple hundred years? How about a thousand? With Leonard Cogar there in the future waiting I think we are all in good hands.
Please join me in raising a glass to Leonard "Unionrdr" Cogar, this week's Brew & A.
Salud!

 
Cheers buddy. Nice interview. Thanks for all your help and positive reinforcement. I look forward to reading your books over the holidays.
 
"I literally cut teeth on her keg charred moon". What'd she make her shine with, razor blades and shards of glass?
Good read.
 
Great article.. and I'm half way through Tippy Tippy Tappy...
which is a great read. Be sure to get yourself a copy.
 
Thanks for sharing those great stories. I have always appreciated your help on the forums. Now I can put a face to the name!
Cheers!
 
Thanks y'all! It's always good to be appreciated! Cuttin teeth on her keg charred moon simply means when I was teethin' as a little fella, Grandma brewed up a batch & sent pop & the family home with a quart of keg charred. So when my teeth were coming in, thus hurting like holy hell, they gave me a shot to swish around my mouth to kill the pain. Then of course I downed it! I turned out normal, so a little of it won't hurt.I'm glad to hear somebody likes reading my scratchin's. I tried to stay away from too many $100 words when a 10c one would do. I'll be around helping out for a long time to come! I'm also going to put out my books in paperback, maybe in the spring.
 
Great article, Union! I too remember, and long for that good old beer taste from the late 50's/early 60's era. I remember getting my first sip of Stroh's when I was about 6 or 7. There was an unforgettably crisp "sizzle" to it, for lack of a better word, and the wonderful taste lingered just right. I suspect that I may be romanticizing the memory, and there are present-day beers that taste like that, but.........
 
Great read! I just ordered both of your books and look forward to reading them over the holidays and I will be sure to post a review for each.
 
@unionrdr My family had similar traditions. Why give a kid tylenol when you can rub a little whiskey on their gums?
I downed it too.
 
Ha. I knew it, man! Another down it before they tell us not too kinda guy! I hope you guys like my books. I worked hard on each of them with 2 more on the way.
 
We seem to frequent the same threads a lot - must have similar sub-interests (brewing being the primary). Nice to finally "meet" you.
 
Great memories, my dad always had a case of POC in the old coal bin and Carling Black Label was my favorite brew, you couldn't get anything fresher. there was always the question, what does POC stand for? Pilsner of Cleveland or piss on Cleveland??
 
Great read. Love the history involved in your brewing. Reminds me of when my Grandfather used to make wine and had me stomping grapes in his hold earthenware crock, because I was the only one who could fit in it.
 
POC stands for Pilsner On Call. There was another one with a similar name I can't remember. I got the line in my sig from Meatloaf's movie "Roady". Must be something about Ohio & brewing beer?....
 
Good chat with a "character". I'm originally from NE Ohio and when I was really young remember my mom drinking Duquesne (Duke) which when I see your references to old beers think of that, though I never tried it myself. Keep on keepin' on!
 
That was the one I couldn't remember! Duquesne! The label looked similar to POC's at one time back then. Duke was similar to POC, but a tad different at the same time as I remember.
 
When Dorothy Fuldheim would do her commentary on Channel 8, there was a Duquesne sign on the front of the desk!
 
I remember before we had a TV, we listened to The Grand Ole Opry on the radio. Earnest Tubb was the MC at the time.
 
I had TV and still had to listen to that. My Dad enjoyed the shows and what not of his parent's generation.
I hate Lawrence Welk as a consequence. Well his show. I have nothing against him personally.
Oddly enough I love A Prairie Home Companion.
 
Thanks, I try. Just wishing I had some of those old beer bottles & cans for my collection now! Mom used to like Lawrence Welk. She made us watch Neuvo Ballet too. The one SNL used to make fun of as " bad ballet".
 
Well, it's too bad these Brew & A: articles got buried. I'd like to see a separate heading for them so newer folks could read them as well without digging for them. I'm still writing the second books of both series, since my computer's down, awaiting repairs. I'm also doing a book about John Henry, the one tall tale that's true! I'm hoping to have all three books out this year...
 
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