Member Profile: Xander Smith

What is your occupation (outside homebrewing)?

I work in film, TV and commercial production. I work as a lighting technician (ie. gaffer, electric, key grip, best boy (akg). I am currently working on a union film tv production here in the city, called Beacon 23.
I am also a partner in a video game company working as a Dev on level, character and story design.

What got you into homebrewing?

I worked as a line cook in a bier market that opened up in Etobicoke. I was exposed to a lot of craft beer and Belgian trappist beer. I underwent the first level of Prud'homme training, but unfortunately the company didn't file it properly (so I have to redo it). Soon after I bought myself a 1 gallon beer kit that I failed miserably at. About a year later, my friend who moved to Australia gave me his 5 gallon home brew kit, it worked out and I’ve been brewing ever since.

What are your hobbies/interests outside of homebrewing?

Cooking, video games, board games, and recently hiking (near breweries).

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

About 7.5 years, 12-15 batches last year.

Do you have any favourite styles you like to brew?

American strong and old ales, I love ‘em.

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

I have done the GTA brews off flavour class. I need to redo Prud'homme training and hopefully level 2 and 3 as well one day, and I want to work towards my BJCP certification.

What kind of setup do you use?

At this time I use a Grainfather 120v accompanied by a banjo cooker and an 8 gallon kettle. I currently produce 5 to 6 gallon batches which I operate out of a refurbished shipping container. Also I have a few fridges and a stasis glycol chiller. I bring my water in remotely, but I do have power.

What is the best beer you have brewed?

Style: English bitter

Flavour and fun-wise: gruit saison with hawthorn berry, dandelion root, and milk thistle.

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

Lactose cranberry sour. I used 5 lbs of lactose sugar, it was way too sweet, it didn’t taste like cranberries. It didn't ferment right. Don’t use 5 lbs of lactose sugar in a 6 gallon batch!!!!!

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

Switching from bottling sugar to forced carbonation. Things stopped exploding, it allowed me to dial in styles better, and got me into kegging my beer and using draft systems instead of relying on bottles and waiting to find out if my beer would explode.
More recently I have experimented with spunding for lagers which has increased my ability to make lagers and not have to wait 4 weeks to 2 months to enjoy my lager. It also helped because I didn’t have to worry about temperature control for as long.

What advice would you give to a new homebrewer?

For those who know me and my brewing I have done a lot of outlandish things. I have tried to push the envelope and work outside of my scope many times. Smoked cherry wood & fig saisons and black IPAs that are basically grass just because. Do not do this. It's costly, and over all frustrating. That being said, bending the rules and making a beer that you wanna drink is the most important. So... Start with an ale over a lager! Part of the fun is drinking and enjoying your beer. Lagers take substantially longer to finish and perfect over an ale. Also it takes up less fridge space while you're waiting for it to ferment.
AND using campden tablets is so important to make sure your water is free of chloramine and fluoride.

What is your favourite yeast, grain, and hop?

Yeast - Aurora by Bootleg Biology
Grain - DRC (double roasted crystal)
Hop - Loral / Adeena

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

I have been trying to clone Westmalle abbey dubbel for a very long time now for my grandfather, who is also a homebrewer in Winnipeg. His family is from Belgium and when he was a boy he got to go to the abbey and drink the beer. I would like to honour that memory by creating it myself.

Do you have a name for your homebrewery?

Yes, Seacan Brew Trade Co. because I brew inside of a shipping container.