What is your occupation (outside homebrewing)?
I'm a database administrator and software developer. For the last 10 years I've worked in the IT department at Havergal College, an independent K-12 school for girls. I've also had the pleasure of coaching the senior softball team at Havergal since 2008. I'm also co-founder and organizer of the People's Pint Brewing Collective where Doug Appeldoorn and I bring home brewers together to showcase their talent and creativity.
What got you into homebrewing?
One night in the fall of 2011, my wife Jessica came home with a Brooklyn Brew Shop 1 gallon all-grain kit. We did a lot of reading before brewing that kit and once we found out that it tasted like decent beer we were hooked. Our next batches just kept improving and I eventually expanded capacity.
What are your hobbies/interests outside of homebrewing?
Other than homebrewing and related activities, I spend my free time with a couple other activities:
- Cheese-making and sourdough bread-making are recent hobbies that my wife and I have begun to explore. Not surprisingly, having sanitary preparation/fermentation experience is a great help in these pursuits.
- Maintaining a small urban farm in my backyard has become a bigger and bigger endeavor for my wife and I (she does most of the work, to be honest) - we grow a few varieties of vegetables (cucumber, tomato, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, shallots and various greens) and of course, four varieties of hops: Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Hallertau.
- When I can find the time, I like to tinker with microcontrollers, specifically using the Arduino platform. As many others have found out, though, when it comes to brewing applications, it's usually cheaper and easier to just buy retail products instead of trying to build them from scratch. Still, it's a fun challenge to attempt a DIY solution for a particular application.
- The game of baseball is a great passion of mine. As mentioned, I've been coaching a high-school softball team for several years but I've also been playing the game for quite some time now. I usually pitch, catch or play outfield. I grew up rooting for the Detroit Tigers but the Toronto Blue Jays have long taken over as my favourite MLB team.
- I've been playing drums in bands and recording music since grade nine and I'm still going. I play in a post-punk band called Regional Trust as well as the "house band" at the school where I work. It's a great way to relieve stress too!
How long have you been brewing and how many batches last year?
My first batch was brewed in October 2011. Last year I brewed 28 batches and amazingly, I'm at 27 since January 1, 2016.
Do you have any favourite styles you like to brew?
Saison by far - to me, its diversity allows maximum creativity since a saison can be table-strength or very strong, light or dark, hoppy or estery, etc. You can do so much with saison and it's always a pleasure to drink.
What kind of setup do you use?
I've got two 10-gallon setups: the indoor/kitchen system uses a picnic cooler, 15-gallon and 9-gallon kettles. The outdoor system is based on three 15.5 gallon keggles and employs a HERMS coil for mashing.
I've got a fermentation fridge for lagers and English ales but I also use my 12.5 gallon stainless conical in the cellar during the winter for cool/cold fermentation.
What is the worst beer you have brewed?
Early on I tried brewing a pilsner - it ended up being an irrecoverable diacetyl-bomb! This really stung too because I spent hours on brew day doing a triple-decoction mash! Thankfully, it was only a 2.5 gallon batch ...
What did you learn from that worst beer?
A healthy culture pitched at the correct count and temperature is key to a great fermentation!
What is the best beer you have brewed (share recipe)?
The beer that most of my friends and myself alike seem to enjoy the most is my simple California Common:
What is a change you have implemented that you feel made a big improvement in your beer?
Using a flask and stir plate to build up cell counts and healthy yeast cultures has got to be #1. The only batches I've had to dump were fermented with cultures that I did not prepare in this way.
What advice would you give to a new homebrewer?
- Read as much as you can about all aspects of brewing, but don't stress on any given item.
- Ask experienced brewers as many questions as you can about anything you aren't comfortable with.
- Watch/assist as many other experienced brewers as you can when they brew - you will learn all of the things they don't print in literature during these brew days.
- Accept the fact that there are many ways to do all of the things associated with brewing
- Do it because you love it!
Do you have any certifications related to beer and/or homebrewing (BJCP, Cicerone, etc…)?
No, but I plan to achieve the Prud'homme level 1 certification soon.
If you could be a tree frog, what colour tree frog would you be and why?
That's a toughy, but I'd have to go with brown. Camouflage!