Archive for the ‘Interview’ Category

Interview - Fermentarium’s DJ

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

DJ operates one of the most popular homebrewing websites, Fermentarium, and has provided his own view of 5 basic homebrewing questions. His tips and advice are really worth reading:

1) When did you start brewing your own beer and why?

I started when I was in college.  There was a liquor store in Boston which happened to have beer kits on the shelf.  It was a pain finding someone who could buy alcohol for you, so making my own beer seemed like a natural solution.  There was no age requirement for beer supplies at the time.  The beer kits were the extract in a can variety.  The first beer was ok, the second beer never carbonated in the bottle, and the third beer grew far more than yeast.  It was much later I learned more about sanitation and proper brewing techniques.
2) What advice would you give to homebrew beginners?

Relax.  If you can find someone to watch brew beer, do that first.  You’ll see the person make mistakes, skip steps from the book, and possibly do something a book guarantees will produce poor results.  What you will find is the beer will still turn out decent.  Sure you’ll need to work on the parts your friend glossed over to produce great beer, you’ll find the beer he did produce is still better than you’d expect.  I’ve had disaster brewing days, where the beer still turned out great.  Watching someone else brew beer takes the fear factor out of brewing, you’ll worry less and you’ll enjoy it much more.

3) What is the best tip to improve your beer that you have ever been given?

Create a yeast starter.  When you create a starter, the fermentation starts quicker, ends sooner, and produces a better tasting beer.  Starters also reduce the chances for infection since your starter should easily outcompete any other micro organisms.  The yeast really make the beer, maybe more than any other “ingredient”, so if you give your beer the best yeast possible your beer will turn out much better.
4) What is your favorite commercial beer?

Paulaner Märzen.  For a larger brewery beer, it’s a great session beer with good flavor.  The beer is a smooth red lager, with a hint of sweetness.  It’s the original Oktoberfest beer, and I always have a case on hand.
5) What is your favorite style of beer?

Märzen.  I really like the maltier beers. It takes more time and effort since it’s a lager,but the results are always worth it.  I usually make a few kegs for the annual Oktoberfest party in my neighborhood.

Interview - Beer Utopia’s Chris

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Chris, also known as Beer Utopia’s Czar of Zymurgy is a big homebrew enthusiast and has agreed to answer five questions to help everyone with their beer making projects:

1) When did you start brewing your own beer and why?
I started brewing less than a year ago. Honestly, I started brewing because we had just launched Beer Utopia and it gave me something to write about.I started with zero knowledge but approached it like an experiment. I’ve always been a do-it-yourself person so I wasn’t afraid to give it a try. I used the Internet for research and blogged about my home brewing experiences, good and bad. It was intriguing to me to learn how my favorite drink was made.

2) What advice would you give to homebrew beginners?
I would give two pieces of advice to beginners:
a) Write everything down. Keep a precise record of everything during the brewing process from the boil to bottling. If you keep detailed notes you can replicate success and troubleshoot problems.
b) Get involved with a brew club. Most cities have active brew clubs so seek them out and get involved. In my opinion, brewing with others or at least talking to other brewers is the best way to learn the art of brewing. If you can’t find a brew club, get involved in an online home brew community. The American Homebrewers Association is the granddaddy of brew groups but there are dozens of others out there on the ‘net.

3) What is the best tip to improve your beer that you have ever been given?
The best tip I’ve been given is to use a yeast starter instead of pitching the yeast directly into the wort. Creating a starter before you start brewing insures that you have healthy, active yeast when it comes time to pitch. Your fermentation will be faster and more vigorous and you don’t have to worry about an incomplete or stuck fermentation. On a related note, use liquid yeast rather than dry. It costs more but is worth it.

4) What is your favorite commercial beer?
My favorite commercial beer is usually the one in my hand. We are truly lucky that there is an abundance of exceptional craft beer available now so it’s hard to pick a favorite. I like Sam Adams a lot. I’ve heard people say that all of their beer tastes the same but I like the taste so it works for me. I also really like Flying Dogs beers, and I’m not just saying that because they are a Beer Utopia advertiser. They really push the envelope of craft beer and produce consistently awesome brews.

5) What is your favorite style of beer?

Before I started brewing my own I would have said my favorite style was a stout. Now that I have a little more discerning palette, I would say my favorite style depends on the occasion and time of year. I am enjoying all of the winter ales that are available right now but in the summer, a crisp amber ale or lager is great. My appreciation for the complexities of hops has grown as I have experimented with different hops varieties in my recipes so I like sweet, malty beers less than I used to. Overall, I like beers that have a complex flavor profile regardless of their style.

Interview - Blog About Beer’s Luke

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Luke runs the popular A Blog About Beer website and has agreed to share some great tips with everyone.

1) When did you start brewing your own beer and why?

I started brewing in 2005 when my roommate at the time and I decided to split the cost of a homebrew kit. I had gone on my first brewery tour shortly before that (at Sam Adams in Boston, MA) and was just getting into beer. My brother had been brewing for years and, when he heard that I bought a kit, sent me his war-torn copy of Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Homebrewing. Needless to say, the rest is history.
2) What advice would you give to homebrew beginners?

Sanitize EVERYTHING. Serious clean all of your equipment as much as you can and then clean it some more. As I was told when I was just starting out - absolutely the only germs you want in the carboy are the ones you put there yourself. If you keep things clean, your beer may not be an award winner but at least it’ll be drinkable. And that sure beats flushing 5 gallons of rotten beer down the drain!
3) What is the best tip to improve your beer that you have ever been given?

Definitely the cleanliness tip I mentioned above. But other than that - don’t rush things. And that applies from the start to the finish of the brewing process. If you rush things along the way you’ll end up making a mistake, so take your time. That applies to the aging at the end of the process, too. Every first-time brewer wants to dive right in and taste the fruits of their labor as soon as possible (hell, every seasoned brewer does, too. If you’re not excited to taste your beer than what’s the point?!) but if you can wait just a little while longer for the beer to age and the flavors to mellow and blend, you’ll be that much more pleased with the results.
4) What is your favorite commercial beer?

Haha don’t you know better than to ask that?! There’s no way to pick just one - and that’s what makes beers fun. Of course there are beers I like more than others, and breweries I really admire (and breweries I’m really sick of) and styles I prefer but it’s impossible to pick just one beer. And, if you do so, you’re really doing yourself a disservice by cutting yourself off now before you try hundreds more beers. and then hundreds more after that. Why settle for a “favorite” now?
5) What is your favorite style of beer?

I definitely try and drink very seasonally - i.e. lighter, “summerier” beers in the summer; “winter warmers” in the cold months, etc. etc. There’s a reason that seasonal styles got to be seasonal styles - that’s when they taste the best! But, if you were to take the seasons out of the equation, I prefer darker beers mostly - browns, stouts and porters especially.

Interview - Fermentedly Challenged’s Chipper Dave

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009
There are a lot of homebrew beer blogs out there as well as other online resources, and if you know where to look then you should be able to find some real gems of knowledge. Chipper Dave is the author of Fermentedly Challenged, and has agreed to answer a few questions on the topic of homebrewing. I hope you enjoy it:

1) When did you start brewing your own beer and why?

When I think back to how I started homebrewing I have to go back to Loveland, Colorado in 1998.  A co-worker of mine in a side business had invited me over to his house for a business meeting.  When the meeting was over he offered me a beer.  I didn’t realize it at the time but this was no store bought beer, it was a homebrewed beer.  After I had sampled a bit of it, he asked me what I thought of it.  I said it was real good and asked him what it was.  When he told me that he had brewed it I could hardly believe it.  My interest was then peaked.  He told me all about how he had made this beer and how easy it was for anyone to do it.   That’s all the motivation I needed. It was about 2 weeks later that I found a local homebrew store and bought myself a starter kit.   I bought a couple of homebrew books and read them cover to cover.  Then I set out to brew my 1st batch - an amber ale.  And 4 weeks later I sampled one of my beers.  Wow. It wasn’t bad at all.  I loved it.

2) What advice would you give to homebrew beginners?

I have a few pieces of advice. First, read as much as you can about homebrewing before you brew. There are some great books out there on the subject and the more you find out about it before hand the better off your beer will be.  I can recommend either Charlie Papazian’s “The Complete Joy of Homebrewing” or John Palmer’s “How to Brew”.  Both are excellent references.
Second, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of cleanliness and sanitization.  It you take some simple precautions, you can avoid some nasty surprises later on. It’s not enough to just rinse out your brew kettle, fermenter or beer bottles.  You’ve got to ensure all surfaces are thoroughly cleaned, then you need to take the extra step to sanitize the surfaces.  There are some simple commercial sanitization products out there like Star San and all homebrew stores will keep plenty in stock.
Lastly, learning to brew is a lot like learning to golf.  It’s something that you can practice the rest your whole life and still have fun learning something new each time.  It’s amazing just how many different ways there are to brew beer. Have fun and experiment, you might just surprise yourself.

3)  What is the best tip to improve your beer that you have ever been given?

Besides cleanliness, I’ve found that sometimes it’s best not to open your newly bottled beers too early. It’s not easy to let your beer sit for weeks before drinking one.  It can takes several weeks to properly bottle condition a homebrew and in some cases more than a month or more depending on the style.  Opening a bottle too early can result in flat beer or a beer that wasn’t quite done converting the remaining sugars to alcohol.  But if you’ve got the patience to let a beer sit for a while, more often than not it will end up tasting a lot better.  It’s tough to wait.  But if you don’t believe it, open one up a week after bottling and taste.  Then wait another week or two and try it again.  You’ll taste a difference.  And to make it taste even better, pour it into a nice clean beer glass.

4) What is your favorite commercial beer?

Now this is really an unfair question.  There is absolutely no way to narrow down a choice to just one or two commercial beers as my favorite.  During 2008, I must have sampled nearly 200 different commercial beers.  And while I enjoyed almost every one of them, I couldn’t possibly pick just one that I enjoyed the most.  What makes sampling beer so much fun is knowing that you can probably spend your entire life trying a new beer each time and die knowing that you’ve never tried them all.  So how can I really have a favorite?

5) What is your favorite style of beer?

OK, now this is an easier question to answer.  Unlike the previous question, I can probably narrow down my favorite styles down to just a few types.  I’m a big fan of the darker brews, particularly this time of year.  I really enjoy a good porter or stout and even the stronger imperial versions of each.  I enjoy them more during the colder months of the year but have been known to sip one on even the hottest days of the summer.