What is your occupation (outside homebrewing)?
Homebrewing is an occupation? Seriously though, I own and run a business that manufactures professional hair care products. It’s remarkable how similar it is to running a brewery; mix water and other ingredients in a kettle, fill them into bottles, then market and sell them. Beer shampoo anyone?
What got you into homebrewing?
I was a drummer in a reggae band and started making beer for our band to drink at rehearsals. Wasn’t great stuff, but it was cheap.
What are your hobbies/interests outside of homebrewing?
Anything to do with sailing, flying, music, canoeing, wine/whiskey/grappa making, cooking and blitz chess. Did I throw you for a loop with that last one?
How long have you been brewing and how many batches last year?
I won’t count the time I was brewing for my band many years ago because: a) it was horrible and b) I stopped when kids came along. I recently started brewing again about five years ago and I try to brew at least twice a month.
Do you have any favourite styles you like to brew?
I like to brew several styles but currently I like to brew Irish ales, IPA’s and weissbier.
What kind of setup do you use?
While the equipment used varies, I essentially do 10 litre batches using BIAB full volume mashes and ferment in stainless steel bucket fermentors. This way, I save enormously on space and time plus I am able to fit my 9.5 litre kegs in the kitchen fridge.
What is the worst beer you have brewed?
The early stages of trying to brew a NEIPA. It was like drinking trub! I persevered though and ended up getting a silver medal for it.
What did you learn from that worst beer?
That I really don’t like NEIPA’s that much. Brew what you like to drink.
What is the best beer you have brewed?
An Irish Red that won gold at BrewSlam last year. It was also the same one that lost to Mike Van in the Last Brewer Standing competition. It’s a good thing Mike didn’t enter his Irish Red in BrewSlam 😉
Here's the recipe for the Irish Red I fittingly named “Congratulations Mike Van”:
What is a change you have implemented that you feel made a big improvement in your beer?
I’ve made many changes to my process but I’d have to say that fermentation temperature control is the one change that has made the biggest impact.
What advice would you give to a new homebrewer?
I won't repeat the excellent advice given by my predecessors so I will simply add the following: Make beer with the equipment you have in your kitchen at first. You do not need expensive shiny gear to make great beer. I don’t think the Trappist Monks had recirculating pumps, conical fermentors and RIMS in 1685? Once you have nailed down the process and are producing good beer, you will know what changes you need to make. Oh, and brew with as many other brewers as you can. It's amazing what you can learn from each other.
Do you have any certifications related to beer and/or homebrewing (BJCP, Cicerone, etc…)?
Does Smart Serve count?
What is your favourite yeast, grain, and hop?
Do I really have to pick a favourite? It’s like saying who is your favourite child!
What beer is your white whale, one that you've been chasing to perfect?
What happened to the tree frog question? Did the white whale eat it? [If this is the first profile you are reading, you'll have to read a few earlier profiles to understand that comment - Ed