Interview – Fermentarium’s DJ

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.

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