Member Profile: Guillaume Couture-Lévesque

Guillaume Couture-Lévesque

What is your occupation (outside homebrewing)?

I'm a tech lead at Prodigy Game, where I work on making tools for people making the game that teaches kids math.

What got you into homebrewing?

A friend bought me John Palmer's How To Brew, and Beer and Philosophy for my birthday saying I might like it. Read both books and learned a lot, but then did nothing until my wife bought me one of the Brooklyn Brew Shop 1 gallon kits. I had fun and kept at it after that.

What are your hobbies/interests outside of homebrewing?

I'm a director on the Canadian National Yoyo Association board. Because I know people will ask, here's a video of some of my yoyoing: I'm also into rock climbing and I've definitely seen a few other GTA Brews members at climbing gyms around the GTA.

How long have you been brewing and how many batches last year?

I started brewing in 2014, though my first club meeting wasn't until 2016. I definitely brewed less last year than years before since I couldn't share as much, but it looks like I brewed roughly 10 batches.

Do you have any favorite styles you like to brew?

Love to brew Micro IPAs, Saisons, and low ABV English styles (Dark Mild, Best Bitter, etc).

Do you have any certifications related to beer and/or homebrewing (BJCP, Cicerone, etc…)?

Only Smart Serve sadly. I do have 500 Rate Beer reviews and 2000 Untappd checkins though, that's got to count for something. 😃 😃 😃 😃

What kind of setup do you use?

I use a 2.5 gallon stovetop BIAB setup. I've got 3 pots that I use for mashing/sparge water/boiling, and I stagger their usage so I can do a second mash while the first batch is boiling to get a full 5 gallon batch. For fermentation I mostly use corny kegs. They can withstand pressure, they're easy to clean, and they're airtight. Only downside is that they're a little small for a full 5 gallon batch.

What is the worst beer you have brewed? What did you learn from it?

Probably my chocolate stout with saison yeast. I thought my apartment was too hot for normal ale yeast (it wasn't) so I used some Wyeast 3711 along with some un-toasted cocoa nibs in primary. It ended up tasty super strange, both very bland and yet the flavours that were there clashed horribly. It was a lesson to calm down and only do 1 experiment at a time. Maybe JUST saison yeast or JUST cocoa nibs. If you change everything at once your results will be more and more unpredictable. Also it was a lesson that 1 gallon batches are great for experimentation and don't take very long to dump out.

What is the best beer you have brewed?

Really hard to say, but I'd have to say that a few of my Micro IPA variations (see one here!) are up there. The one I made with El Dorado hop hash sticks out for sure. I also want to add that it's really hard to pick a "best" because it's often tied with the experience around it. A simple pale ale in the hot tub with friends is better than a fine lambic alone at home watching TV. 

What is a change you have implemented that you feel made a big improvement in your beer?

Water chemistry. I can see a huge difference in my English Dark Mild before I did any sort of water chemistry and after. It really gives you a lot more knobs to turn for control, and those knobs can really affect a lot. Mash pH is a good start, then Cl:SO4 ratio, then custom profiles in Bru'n Water. There's a lot to learn, but it's worth it.

What advice would you give to a new homebrewer?

Brew a bunch of simpler beers at first. If you want to get wild with flavours, try using tinctures in your glass at serving time. If it sucks, you've only got a glass, if it's great, you know exactly how much you added per volume so you can do a full batch next time. Just be sure to taste your tincture over time, different things extract at different rates.

What is your favourite yeast, grain, and hop?

Yeast: Escarpment Old World Saison Blend, makes a fantastic grisette and is super flexible.

Grain: Rye, add some body, add some earthiness, and some slight fruitiness. It's really nice in a surprising variety of styles, from dark mild to IPA.

Hop: Simcoe, I love the aggressive fruity/piney combo.

What beer is your white whale, one that you've been chasing to perfect?

Hazy West Coast Imperial IPA, essentially a Cellarmaker Dank Williams clone. None of my attempts have been very good, it's very difficult to somehow blend the juiciness of a NEIPA, the sweetness and bitterness of an Imperial IPA, and the dankness of a West Coast IPA. Cellarmaker managed it, but I've had 3 attempts come nowhere close. Maybe in time I'll get there, or maybe I'll just fly out to San Francisco more.

Do you have a name for your homebrewery?

No, but this one time at Cask Days with my wife and I...