What is your occupation (outside homebrewing)?
A: I am a high school science teacher by day. But that’s not *entirely* outside homebrewing. Long ago, when I taught OAC Biology, I used brewing to illustrate enzyme activity and metabolism while making 50 mL batches – call it a femtobrewery.
What got you into homebrewing?
A: Why, beer of course. I was student when I started brewing – I loved beer, but the prospect of cheap beer was an added bonus for a starving student.
How long have you been brewing and how many batches last year?
A: I started brewing in 1988, so technically I have been brewing for almost thirty years. But I took a lengthy hiatus from about 1996 to last year, so only 10 of those years have been active. I brewed about 9 or 10 batches last year, more if you count split batches as more than one.
What are your hobbies/interests outside of homebrewing?
My other main hobby is Astronomy. I have my own small observatory near Meaford, and I am one of the few trained volunteer operators of the 74″ diameter scope at the David Dunlap Observatory in Richmond Hill. I have been a longtime member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, and am one of the founders of a brand new organization, the York Region Astronomical Association.
Do you have any favourite styles you like to brew?
What kind of setup do you use?
A: I brew outdoors on a propane burner. 5 gallon batches, mostly, in an 8 gallon kettle and 10 gallon cooler mash tun. I recently picked up a pump to move hot liquids around, which makes life a little easier. Now just waiting for my ebay hop spider to arrive.
What is the worst beer you have brewed?
A: The very first one. A straight up kit. I followed the directions on the can – dissolve in warm water, add sugar and the sketchy pack of yeast from under the lid. After a couple of bottle bombs I literally disarmed some swingtop bottles in full lab safety gear.
What did you learn from that worst beer?
A: The instructions on the side of the can lie.
What is the best beer you have brewed?
A: Well, I have to say my framboise lambic is up there. The recipe is basically 65% 2-row, 35% soft wheat. Decoction mash with the wheat and some of the 2-row, eventually bringing it up to a boil before adding to the rest of the mash. Hops are stale old hallertau. Fermented with Wyeast Lambic and American t ale yeast, with a few cultured dregs for good measure. Then age in a cellar for 21 years, and add a sh*t ton of raspberries (~4kg /5gallons) and a fresh dose of ale yeast. Then bottle for another year for good measure.
What is a change you have implemented that you feel made a big improvement in your beer?
A: Managing my water chemistry. When I started all-grain brewing I lived in Halifax, with very soft water, and did nothing to it. Adjusting the mineral profile now makes a big difference. But then, so does practice. Making mistakes is a great way to learn.
What advice would you give to a new homebrewer?
A: RDWHAHB (Relax, Don’t Worry, Have A Home Brew) is the main thing. Enjoy the process, enjoy tinkering, and join a club so you can pick the brains of people doing the kinds of things you want to do.
Do you have any certifications related to beer and/or homebrewing (BJCP, Cicerone, etc…)?
A: BJCP Certified.
If you could be a tree frog, what colour tree frog would you be and why?
A: Since I spent about six years studying amphibian evolution, this is probably a more loaded answer than you might have expected… But I’ll go with Black and yellow like Dendrobates leucomelas. Though glass tree frogs are pretty adorable too.