What is your occupation (outside homebrewing)?
Short answer: I am a scientist.
Long answer: I am a researcher in photonics. Think electronics, except I deal with photons instead of electrons. I shine lasers at liquids and then look at the scattered light. The light tells me what’s in the liquid, and how much is there.
What got you into homebrewing?
My partner Rob saw a homebrew kit at a grocery store in Vancouver. My Dad is a homebrewer, so I knew what we were getting into. A quick trip to Dan’s Homebrew Shop later, and the hobby has consumed most of our apartment for about 6 years.
What are your hobbies/interests outside of homebrewing?
I am an avid runner and love to sew.
How long have you been brewing and how many batches last year?
I’ve been brewing about 6 years. Last year I did a dozen or so batches.
Do you have any favourite styles you like to brew?
Stouts. Porters. Black IPAs. That roasty maltiness is just magical!
What kind of setup do you use?
I have a RoboBrew BrewZilla.
What is the worst beer you have brewed?
I got a brew-in-a-bag kit for my first all-grain brew. I was stoked. I had a few beers before brewing. I didn’t read the instructions. I boiled the grains. And it turned into this grainy… spongy… gelatin-like compound. It didn’t even make it to the wort chiller.
What did you learn from that worst beer?
Read the fucking instructions.
What is the best beer you have brewed?
What is a change you have implemented that you feel made a big improvement in your beer?
Temperature control was a big one. Both during mash and during fermentation. And of course… reading recipe instructions.
What advice would you give to a new homebrewer?
- Bring your used grains to the dumpster ASAP. They smell very bad.
- Don’t brew a recipe if you do not understand the instructions. Dial it back and do some research, make sure you understand what all the terms mean. Maybe downgrade to a simpler recipe like a brew-in-a-bag or a single-malt-single-hop. Who cares how it was made if it tastes great?
- Work on one or two recipes or styles at a time. Change one thing on every iteration. Try to keep a bottle from the last batch on hand so that you can directly compare the iterations and learn to identify how those changes manifest on your palate. I struggle with a lot of off-flavors, because they aren’t described in ways I can relate to. Making associations like “oh that’s what that is?” can have a HUGE impact on your ability to critique your own beer.
- Volunteer at competitions. The alcohol market in Canada is regulated very tightly and unfortunately that means that we don’t have the chance to try some amazing styles. At competitions you will get to try some phenomenal beers whose styles you simply can’t buy locally. Listening in on the judges while they are discussing an entry can significantly help you refine your process of self-critique. Plus you get to hang out in a brewery all weekend.
- Attend club meetings! You will quickly find a whole group of people who’ve had the same questions you’ve had. And oftentimes they will have solutions to these questions! If you’re shy, just show up with a 6-pack or growler of your brew and approach people whose glasses are empty, offer to pour them a beer and ask for their feedback. Some of my worst beers have been my most popular pours at meetings because everyone wants to try their hand at figuring out what’s going on. There are a million resources out there and it’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re going it alone.
Do you have any certifications related to beer and/or homebrewing (BJCP, Cicerone, etc…)?
Nope. I was head steward at Brew Slam 2018 and will be again in 2019, but haven’t ‘tied the knot’ with BJCP.
What is your favourite yeast, grain, and hop?
- Yeast is Kveik. Holy shit what a monster!
- Grain is pale chocolate malt. Such a game changer for stouts.
- Hops is EKG. I just keep coming back to it, it’s a classic.
What beer is your white whale, one that you’ve been chasing to perfect?
A clone of St Ambroise Apricot Wheat. I’ve tried a few iterations and just can’t nail it. Fruit beers are tricky (and expensive) to perfect.