I was a computer studies teacher at a girl's school for 12 years, but made a career change in 2013. I was accepted into the Brewmaster program at Niagara College, and am now a brewer at Magnotta Brewery in Vaughan.
What got you into homebrewing?
My dad! He'd been homebrewing on and off since the 1985 beer strike, and we helped by bottling. I inherited his bottle capper, which is still as much of a PITA to use now as it was then.
What are your hobbies/interests outside of homebrewing?
In the warmer months, I tend to be either out exploring the countryside on my motorcycle, a 2004 BMW R1150R, or trying to see how many beer festivals my liver can stand. I turn into a bit of a hermit in the winter, and catch up on reading, doing some writing, and knitting beer-related items like this mitten.
How long have you been brewing and how many batches last year?
I got into the hobby myself about 5 years ago when I wanted to tweak a raspberry wheat beer that just didn't have enough raspberries in it.
Do you have any favourite styles you like to brew?
Looking at my record book, it seems I prefer English, malt-forward styles the most. I also love to experiment with fruit, spices and other ingredients depending on where the inspiration takes me.
What kind of setup do you use?
I live in an apartment, and space is at a premium. I was doing 3 to 5 gallon brews using a converted Home Depot cooler and every big stock pot I could get my hands on until the beginning of this year when my beloved got me a Grainfather as a graduation present. It has it's quirks, but is way handier overall for brewing in my small space.
What is the worst beer you have brewed?
That would be my first beer, a 1-gallon honey ale that I brewed with untreated Toronto tap water and then played close-enough-is-good-enough with priming sugar. It gushed so much I had to clean the kitchen ceiling. What remained was undrinkable.
What did you learn from that worst beer?
When you are dealing with smaller batches, close enough is in fact NOT good enough. Proportions matter, and there is no room for error, especially with 1 gallon brews.
What is the best beer you have brewed?
The home brew I am most happy with is the Lychee Gose I made a few months ago, inspired by a salted lychee soda I had while in Japan. It was the first time I'd done a kettle sour at home or used lychees, and had to do a bit of on-the-fly problem solving (there were...issues), so was pretty nervous about the final product. I was very pleased when it was exactly what I'd envisioned!
Memories of Japan Lychee Gose - 11 Litres
1.5 kg wheat malt
1.0 kg pilsner malt
35 gm Himalayan pink sea salt (20 gm pre-souring, the balance pre-bottling to get the taste where I wanted it. It might be too salty for some)
5 gm saaz hops
1 package OYL605 Lactobacillus pitch for kettle sour (36 hours to a pH of 2.99)
1 vial White Labs WLP029 German Ale yeast
1.5 kg fresh lychees, peeled, pureed and frozen, then added to secondary
What is a change you have implemented that you feel made a big improvement in your beer?
Acquiring a fermentation fridge! It's amazing what a consistent and appropriate temperature will do to keep yeast happy. I had been fermenting in a cupboard beside the fridge until an unexpected hot spell coincided with an air conditioning failure and resulted in a seriously off beer.
What advice would you give to a new homebrewer?
- Do some reading. I really like the Brewing Element Series (http://www.
brewerspublications.com/ brewing-elements-series/) and refer to them pretty frequently. Zymrgy and Brew Your Own magazines are also good resources.
- Ask questions. If anyone treats them like they're stupid questions, then ask someone else. No one was born knowing this.
- Take good notes during the whole process. It's impossible to replicate something a year later when you can't remember what you did. Use a notebook, a printable brewday template or software, whatever your preference.
- Brew! Get to know your hardware, experiment with ingredients, play around & see what happens.
- Don't live by the numbers. Targets are great to aim for, but don't get too wrapped up in hitting them exactly.
Do you have any certifications related to beer and/or homebrewing (BJCP, Cicerone, etc…)?
I did the first two Prud'homme levels before getting into the Brewmaster program, and am a BJCP Certified judge.
If you could be a tree frog, what colour tree frog would you be and why?
Why would I want to be a tree frog? They don't drink beer.