I had the rare opportunity to write a letter to my local public radio station the other day on the subject of homebrewing. It's not often that I hear about our humble hobby in the daily news, so the story of course caught my attention right away.
I've sat down to write a BYO blog a bunch of times over the past few months but there's been so much going on that everything feels outdated before I can make it to the end! There's nothing more tired than a blogger who makes excuses for slacking off - but here I am...making excuses, passing the buck, pointing the finger at the popularity of craft beer and homebrewing. I can't help it — it's true!
It seems like I blinked and suddenly two months had passed since my last BYO blog. To be fair, there's been quite a lot going on behind the scenes here. Lots of editing, lots of traveling, and of course — lots of homebrews!
One of the biggest projects to come out of the last two months is the new Best of BYO Guide To All-Grain Brewing — a collection of our best information about all-grain homebrewing. A major project that's been on my desk for a while now, I'm so happy with how the issue turned out, and I hope everyone who reads it will agree.
Also in the mix of what's been going on are two really great regular issues of Brew Your Own: May-June and July-August, and I'm a little bummed that I was so busy that I didn't get the chance to talk about May-June when it came out. We really committed to talking about sour beers in May-June, including a story by Horst Dornbusch about Berliner Weiss — a style that's been popping up in all kinds of different iterations all over the US lately. The Mad Fermentationist Mike Tonsmeire also wrote a story about the solera method of brewing, which was something all new to me. Plus we ran a story by a great new (to us) author, Derek Dellinger, about brewing an all-Brettanomyces-fermented IPA, which is a (literally) funky new form of hoppy pale ale that has emerged thanks to the progress of modern yeast isolation techniques. If you're brave enough to bring the bugs into your homebrewery, I'll share a recipe worth checking out: A clone of Modern Times Southern Lands IPA (scroll down to the end of this post for the all-grain and extract with grains recipes)
July-August brought things back to simplicity with a cover story by Brad Smith (of Beersmith.com fame) about SMaSH brewing - that is, single malt and single hop brewing. The concept is an interesting approach to brewing on two fronts: You can learn a lot about individual hops and malts, and it also forces the concept of less is more — you learn to make better beers by using restraint. It's like the Twitter of brewing — just choose your malt and hop wisely....
In the March-April 2014 issue of BYO, Josh Weikert wrote a great story about brewing with induction heat. I have to admit, after reading the piece that even I am considering an apartment-sized setup. When I first read Josh's manuscript, I got to the section that said, "If these limitations give you a moment of pause and you're not willing to take the leap completely, that's perfectly understandable. However, let me suggest that the only thing cooler than having a homebrewery . . . is having two homebreweries! Imagine it: a production system out in the shed, cranking out large batches of proven recipes for three seasons, and a smaller 2.5-gallon (9.4-L) pilot system for when the north winds start to blow, with you tinkering away in front of a roaring fire and perfecting the next season's beers. For about $200, you can add an induction-powered secondary or pilot system to your brewing capabilities." I thought to myself, "A 1 or 2-gallon induction setup is something I could definitely commit to in my little, ancient apartment."
Apparently I wasn't the only one interested in the flexibility that induction brewing could provide as Josh's story generated quite a bit of reader mail. He even heard from a reader from Poland who translated the piece into Polish to share with his homebrew club! Normally we run most of our feedback in the "Mail" department of the magazine, but I could only fit a few letters into the next issue of BYO. There were lots of other good questions for Josh, though, so I thought I'd share the rest (look for the first three letters in the "Mail" department of the May-June 2014 issue). Hopefully he answers some of yours in the process, but if not, drop him an email at josh.weikert @ gmail.com.
I am designing a brew kitchen in the basement. It's completely unfinished, so I've got a lot of flexibility of what I can do, but not a ton of space. I've got about 7.5' x 5' of space – basically the size of a small bathroom. I think I want to go electric. The ventilation requirements on gas/propane made my head spin. I really like the induction model because it basically allows me to use my existing pot/kettles without modification. I think I can swing a 240-V model, but does that mean I will need two of them? One for HLT and the other for the boil kettle? Is there a way I could get away with one "large" induction surface? I did some research on-line, but for the size of a brew kettle (7 gallons), it didn't look like there was anything powerful enough that was also large enough to fit two kettles. The "affordable" 240-V units were all single burners – like this one – which is also rated at 20 amps, so I think I would need to two circuits for two units. Am I on the right track in my thinking?
- Stephen Reed
Before I came to BYO in 2007, I was not a homebrewer. I was more of a beer drinker — and really, isn't that how most of us got into the hobby? First you drink beer, then you want to learn how to make it yourself. But if I'm really being honest, I came to the hobby of homebrewing much less organically than most BYO readers. I learned to brew because it was my job. Before I came to BYO I was a culinary school graduate and former sous chef, a "foodie" and later a journalism student, but I had never made beer before. I know — boo hoo for me, I was paid to learn to homebrew — I can feel your sympathy flowing in from all directions. As awesome as it is to get paid to homebrew, however — and believe me, it's pretty awesome — I did miss out on the fun of getting into homebrewing the way that a lot of homebrewers do it: just for fun.
We brew pretty regularly at BYO headquarters here in Manchester, Vermont. And our brew days are definitely fun (it's tough to complain about picking hops and brewing on the clock) — however, it's rare that we brew just to brew. And it's even more rare that I get to pick what we brew. A lot of times we brew to create photographs for a feature story, or some shots of a specific technique. In fact, the last time we brewed was to take shots for Dave Green's story in the Jan-Feb 2014 issue about pre-boil hopping. This kind of brew day means that there's always a guy with a camera over your shoulder, or the Art Director, telling you what you need to do to get the shot. It's not unusual to hear someone in your ear asking you to, "Turn the paddle this way. Take a step back. Let's do that hops thing again. And again. And one more time. Slow down. Ok, let's try it from a different angle." It's fun to brew this way because it's exciting to create the images and stories that go into BYO. But brewing with a camera on you is not the same as getting together with friends on the weekend and brewing whatever you want whenever you want.
(To the left...no the right...the other right....now stir.)
So I should just brew at home, right? Well, I've hung around the homebrewery of BYO's most prolific homebrewer, Dave Green, while he's brewed a few times, but I'm not one to jump in on someone else's turf. And unfortunately I really don't have the space to brew the way I'd like to brew where I live. I know that there are a lot of really cool small-space brewing setups — it's my job to look for cool homebrew setups all over the Internet — I have just never found one that was quite right for my small-and-primitive apartment with no yard, basement or storage (there is still stuff in boxes from moving in two years ago — never move into an apartment just because of the hardwood floors alone). Plus, I didn't really want to brew by myself. So when my friend and nearby neighbor Dan asked me if I wanted to start homebrewing with him in his finished basement recently, I jumped at the chance....