Brew & A: Wesley "WesleyS" Sipanka

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Texans are known for three things. Big personalities, being the friendliest people on the planet, and their love of horsing around.

If you've met Wesley "WesleyS" Sipanka in real life, or online you know Wes fits all those qualifications very well.
One of the outright friendliest members you'll ever meet you'll find Wes hanging out in the Off Topic sections, looking for beer trades, or guiding new brewers and old brewers alike to better beer with his decade of brewing experience.
Wes decided to saddle up for this weeks Brew & A.

Austin: How did you start brewing?
Wes: A guy I previously worked with mentioned he made wine and brewed beer. It seemed interesting, so he let me borrow some BYO back issues. I read through every one of them (10-15 issues) and picked out a recipe. He picked up the ingredients and we brewed it. It was not the greatest and was hardly drinkable, but I was hooked on the hobby.
Austin: What did you pick and how did it turn out?
Wes: It was an extract with steeping grains cherry wheat. One gallon batch scaled down from a 5 gallon recipe. The home brew store the guy picked the ingredients up from didn't have a couple things, so he made some substitutions that doomed the beer even further. The finished product was under attenuated, under carbed and tasted like the artificial blackberry flavoring he picked up instead of cherry. To be fair though, it would've been just as bad with the cherry. But, despite all that, it was beer and I saw the potential for a very enjoyable hobby.

Austin: What's your favorite beer?
Wes: That's a tough question. I'm a fan of so many styles, it's hard to pinpoint just one favorite style, much less a favorite beer. I will say, two exceptional beers that come to mind are Founders Backwoods Bastard and Surly Abrasive.
Austin: What do you like about those beers? Have you tried to clone either?
Wes: I think they're each great examples of two of my favorite styles of beer. Hop bombs and bourbon barrel aged beer. Both of them really blew me away the first time I tasted them. I haven't tried to clone either yet, but plan to brew an Abrasive clone since it's not available where I live.
Austin: What's one piece of your brew setup you can't live without?
Wes: My temp controlled refrigerator and freezer.

Austin: Did you build your own? Any tips or tricks for others doing the same?
Wes: I started out with a chest freezer and a basic Johnson temp controller. No real modifications to the freezer itself. Only used it for fermentation and/or cold crashing. When I acquired a couple more refrigerators, I decided I needed another temp controller. That one I built myself. It seemed a little overwhelming at first since I am far from electrically inclined. But, that's the good thing about this site. I found the information I needed in previous threads and breezed through it with no problems.
Austin: What's the worst product you've ever used?
Wes: Bottled (fake) fruit flavoring. The horror...
Austin: What was the flavor and what did it produce?
Wes: The couple I've tasted, peach and blackberry, taste like medicine or really bad candy. Just fake and artificial all around. I wouldn't recommend the use of them to anyone.
Austin: Why do you homebrew?
Wes: I love the process, from designing my own recipes to drinking the finished product and everything in between.

Making Dark Candi Sugar for a Belgian Breakfast Stout
Austin: What's your homebrewing style - extract, partial mash, all-grain, biab, or ?
Wes: All grain.
Austin: Tell us about one of your most memorable homebrewing experiences.
Wes: That would probably be my first all grain batch. I only brewed 2-3 extract batches before jumping to all grain. I did all the reading and mental preparation I could, and just went for it. I didn't know if it would be a success or an epic fail. When I took that first taste of sweet wort draining off the grain, I knew I succeeded. I love that feeling, so I'm always trying to work new processes, techniques, ingredients, etc. into my brewing.

Mash out!
Austin: What was your first all grain recipe? Did you find it meeting your expectations or exceeding them?
Wes: It was a smoked porter. It exceeded my expectations. Up to that point, I had brewed 2 extract batches of my own and a couple with the friend who introduced me to homebrewing. Although a couple of them turned out fine, I could immediately taste the difference with all grain. I was hooked and never touched extract again unless it's for yeast starters.

Austin: Describe the perfect beer - style, aroma, flavor, etc.
Wes: Not sure, but I know I haven't found it yet. And it hasn't been from a lack of searching.
Austin: This is more of an exercise to get to know your palette. Close, your eyes, breath deep. What are you drinking?
Wes: I'm not big on subtle. If it's a hoppy beer, I want those hops to slap me in the face. If it's bourbon barrel aged, or has coffee, chocolate, vanilla, coconut, etc. I don't want to be searching for that flavor. I want it to shine. If it's a sour beer, I want it to melt my face off. Haha! Seems over the top, but I get bored with beer where the only thing it has going for it is it's beer. If that makes sense. While I can appreciate well brewed examples of styles I find particularly boring, those aren't the beers I gravitate toward or look to for inspiration for my own brewing.
Austin: What's your dream brew rig, and how would you assemble it?
Wes: I'm very happy with my current rig which consists of two keggles and my original igloo cube MLT with cpvc manifold I built that I've been using for nine years. I like to keep it simple and stick with what works. I do have plans on building a three tier brew stand for my current equipment. But who knows when I'll get around to that.
Austin: What is the one piece of advice you wish someone would've giving you when you first started?
Wes: Use Starsan! It seems like such a little thing, but they guy that got me into homebrewing used Sodium Metabisulfate as a sanitizer. So, that's what I started out using. After nearly choking to death the first few times you open up the bucket to sanitize something, you start to tell yourself there has to be a better way.

***
If you're looking for Texas beers to help fill out your collection, and help expand your knowledge of beer it would behoove you to contact Wes. Although a ton of fun, Wes is a serious brewer adding his experience and voice to HomeBrewTalk.
Please joins me in raising a glass to Wesley "WesleyS" Sipanka this weeks Brew & A.
Salud!

 
Norm is the real star here!
Nice write up Wes. Always nice to learn more about the great members of this site. Cheers!
 
@finsfan I agree, very nice to learn about the great members here, and Wes too!
I'm just kidding, Wes is a good guy and it was a really cool article. Cheers!
 
Who the hell is this guy? What a tool bag!
I kid I kid! Wes, you're among the many people I respect around here. Great interview!
 
@wobrien @finsfan
Norm definitely deserved to be on here as much, or more, than me. :D
@Hello
You had it right in your first two sentences. ;)
 
Norm, in case you're wondering like I was, is the name given to the horse mask being passed around from member to member.
The awesomeness, it's to much!
 
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