Brew & A: Yuri_Rage

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Have you ever rescued yeast from a Keg? Yuri_Rage has. In fact that questions was his initial introduction to HomeBrewTalk. Having already brewed for sometime, Yuri_Rage (known as Yuri) jumped right in. From his first days here on HomeBrewTalk, Yuri has been a force to be reckoned with in the brewing world. An incredibly influential brewer, Yuri has provided us recipes such as his Thunderstruck Pumpkin Ale, very well traveled tutorials covering basic definitions and misspellings, and DIY builds like his DIY Thermoelectric Temperature Control, to his DIY Steam Mash System. Yuri is a busy man! I sat down with him to find out how exactly he came to be the master brewer we all know and love.

: How did you start brewing?
Yuri: I watched that silly episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown makes some beer, and I had to try it for myself. My first brew was a Cooper's Wheat Beer canned LME kit. It was good enough to make me want to try again, though I never brewed another "kit and a kilo" beer.
Austin: What's your favorite beer?
Yuri: Either a super fresh, very citrusy pale ale/IPA, or a deep, dark imperial stout
Austin: What's one piece of your brew setup you can't live without?
Yuri: A minimum of one 220V/50A circuit in the brew house. It takes a lot of wattage to efficiently mash and boil 10-20 gallons.
Austin: What's the worst product you've ever used?
Yuri: Any filtration system - no matter what I do, or how careful I am, the filtered beer gets oxidized all to hell. I hate filtering.
Austin: Why do you homebrew?
Yuri: It's super gratifying to take fairly raw ingredients, some of which aren't too far removed from livestock feed, and turn them into a delicious beverage.

Austin: Brewing beer is a form of cooking. What other foods do you enjoy preparing?
Yuri: All of them! Except fish. I'm not a seafood eater...I've tried... I love to cook. My very rote/recipe-driven wife used to be frustrated by my ability to walk into the kitchen and completely rearrange a recipe, usually for the better, but now she simply says, "Here's what I want to make, you make it better." She's still unimpressed, though, with my ability to turn the kitchen into a scene right out of a Swedish Chef sketch. A recent favorite is a quick-smoked, medium-rare beef tenderloin roast served thickly sliced over toasted Ciabatta with a hunk of swiss cheese. I have HBT's EdWort to thank for getting me started with the Big Green Egg, which makes easy work of that roast.
Austin: What's your homebrewing style - extract, partial mash, all-grain, biab, or ?

: Steam infused all grain
Austin: Tell us about one of your most memorable home brewing experiences.
Yuri: I'll never forget multiple brew days with my friend and mentor back in 2007-2008. He had a very meticulously designed 15 gallon all grain propane/HERMS rig along with a glycol jacketed conical fermenter. He was dedicated to perfecting one recipe and one recipe, only - a German Pilsner. I learned so much from his attention to detail and well organized process, not to mention his candid criticism and blunt rejection of anything that didn't fit his mold for success. He passed away this month, and his son made sure I got a copy of that pils recipe. I can't wait to brew it in his honor.
Austin: I'm sorry for your loss. Please tell me more about your mentor, and the legacy of brewing that's being passed down through you. Are you mentoring any new brewers?
Yuri: He was a Vietnam vet that I met through mutual friends. When he found out that I was getting into homebrewing, he invited me to a brewday. For the next few years, there was rarely a batch he brewed without my "help." I learned a lot about all grain brewing, yeast starters, and lagering as a result. I was SUPER proud when he found my steam thread on HBT and made a pressure cooker based system of his own to supplement his already robust HERMS setup. We became fast friends with tons of mutual friends and acquaintances. I'll truly miss him!
I'm not really mentoring anyone right now, but I did spend some time brewing with another friend 2 years ago and wound up showing him how to silver solder as we built his conical fermenter.
Austin: Describe the perfect beer - style, aroma, flavor, etc.
Yuri: American Pale Ale.
Overwhelming, fresh, bright, Pacific northwest hop aroma
Slightly sweet and malty, lots of that citrus/pine flavor (not grassy) with a touch of dry bitterness in the finish
A bit light in ABV - an all day session brew
Austin: Do you have any commercial examples?
Yuri: Pliny the Elder and Bell's Two Hearted are great examples of the aroma and flavor profile(s) I'd like to emulate. Tone them down to session beers, pile on the late addition C-hops, and you've got a real winner in my book.
Austin: What's your dream brew rig, and how would you assemble it?
Yuri: My current rig is my dream rig, and I'm still assembling it. It needs more accurate temperature monitoring, a steam-delivering motorized mash paddle, a bigger pump (or two), and a jacketed fermenter. It'll likely never be finished - I love the process of constant improvement.

Austin: Can you detail your brew setup for us?
Yuri: 20 gallon "Megapot" boil kettle with a temperature probe, 5500W heating element, and welded ball valve fitting.

20 gallon "Megapot" mash tun with a slightly modified BoilerMaker (Blichmann) false bottom, welded bottom port/ball valve, and temperature probe.
Sanke keg steam generator with a 5500W heating element, temperature probe, pressure sensor, and microprocessor control.
Peristaltic pump with variable flow control.
Self-written web interface, likely to be converted to TeensyNet control (see username jimmayhugh's thread) once I sort out the details.

Self-made 21 gallon conical fermenter.
Self-made 6 Corny kegerator ("keezer") with a stout tap that typically runs on argon instead of nitrogen.
Austin: What is the one piece of advice you wish someone would've giving you when you first started?
Yuri: Go big, brew electric, and never shy away from a challenge.
Austin: How has being a member of an online homebrewing community affected your brewing?

Yuri: It has completely shaped my brewing. I joined HBT about 3-4 months after making my first batch of beer. Because of my skill set in the shop, I built much of my equipment in the "public" eye of HBT. I got a lot of enthusiastic help along with some brutal criticism, all of which helped create my brewery and the techniques employed while using it. I've lived in very small towns scattered around the American southwest, with little access to a homebrew store or club. I've brewed very few batches in person with other homebrewers, but I've shared the experience of thousands through HBT.
Austin: Did you find the criticism helpful? I know a lot of people turn away when they think that their ideas are being met with scorn, so how did you take it and can you tell us more about using criticism constructively?

Yuri: I've used a lot of criticism to my benefit. While it's sometimes hard to eat a slice of humble pie, you have to be able to admit to yourself that someone else either knows more than you or has a unique approach to a problem that you didn't see yourself. When I was first designing the electronic interface, I had a fair amount of coding experience, but not much knowledge of microprocessors. Some helpful advice from those interested in the project guided me toward a much more robust solution than the one I had initially envisioned.
Here are a couple of helpful mantras:
I have a lot to learn.
Arguing on the Internet is often futile.
If a comment can be taken constructively, a dialog with the poster is usually very productive. On the other hand, a flippant comment or one that is fraught with emotion is likely best overlooked.

A long time moderator, and good friend of the community, it was a pleasure to find out more about Yuri_Rage. One of the more intimidating brewers, both in terms of his extreme knowledge and skill, Yuri is the kind of brewer a lot of us want to be when we grow up, and it shows by his constant innovation and willingness to bring the rest of us to his level. Please join me in lifting a mug to Yuri_Rage, this weeks Brew & A.

Having bought my first burner recently, why this "Go big, brew electric, and never shy away from a challenge."?
Thanks a bunch for your time and contribution! :)
Great interview guys! Thank you Yuri for the years of devotion you've given to the community. HomeBrewTalk has the best moderators of any community I've ever been on.
Great interview! Thunderstruck is still my favorite pumpkin ale I've ever drank and a staple in my annual fall brewing rotation!
We are the Home Brewers. you will be assimilated...resistance is futile. Something one might say is all too true on here. The nay-sayers will come to realize this sooner or later, the net being what it is. That's one heck of a brew rig you have there!
Sweet rig!
What one thing would you recommend a person read to learn about this steam infused technique?
Also, you look like a cop. :D
You're all too kind (except for the cop comment...). Thank you!
Here are some steam links for you:
I really like the pressure cooker design for simplicity and perhaps safety. Gary Spykman (linked above) has an awesome mash mixer that I'd like to emulate in the future.
Beautiful brew room. I just started on here and love the "Brew and A" threads. It's great to learn from so many accomplished brewers. I love the copper, has a steampunk look.