Interview – Fermentedly Challenged’s Chipper Dave

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.

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