Meet the Home Brewer – Brewmaster Jerry

We spend a moment with home brewer Brewmaster Jerry and see where it all started and what he has on the horizon

So, can you tell us how it all started for you?

I started brewing just after Christmas of 2009.  I received a Mr. Beer kit as a present from my in-laws.  My wife suggested it as a good thing for me to try.  I brewed my first batch, and got hooked.

What was your first brew and how did it turn out?

I think it was a Mr. Beer lager or pale ale that came with my kit.  It was average, aka drinkable, but not too memorable.  I think my 8 liters of beer went quickly, and people were complimentary about the taste…but I think they were being nice that I made, but more importantly, it was free beer.  This first kit led to many more Mr. Beer kits in the future, but I quickly realized how much I could stylize my brews with different additions.  I still use Mr. Beer kits to make small batches or experimental things today.

Were there any mishaps / funny moments along the way leading to now?

Oh, there have been many mishaps.  There have been spills in the kitchen during transfers (more than I care to admit), overflowing air locks with foam, and a broken glass carboy that actually bounced a few times before shattering.

The funniest moment was probably the day the top blew off my fermenting bucket.  My wife was walking down to our basement, and there was a very loud boom just as she touched the floor.  She jumped and screamed.  I was just feet away.  I found the top had actually separated from the fermenter.  After that, for quite a few batches, I saran wrapped the top of the fermenters, and placed them inside garbage bags.  My wife was worried that one day a top would blow off, and all of our stuff would be covered with flying wort.  So far, so good….I haven’t covered our stuff yet.

Are there any pieces of equipment that you are looking to buy soon, or are converting for the future?

I think there are a few things out there on my wish list.  First will probably be “The Brew Bag”.  This will allow me to utilize the basket that came along with my kettle to get a great BIAB experience.  I would also like to get more kegs.  With the kegerator, I also hope to expand that equipment to include a growler filler and beer gun.  This will make my bottling and sharing much easier!

Bottle or Keg?

Up until recently, it was mostly bottling.  I have hundreds of bottles that I have scraped the labels off of, and used many times.  I love to use the 22oz bombers, as it speeds up the bottling day.  It is also a great way to have enough to share with friends when you go places.

In addition to bottling, I had the BeerBox, but no longer use them.  I have a 2.5 gallon keg that I used for tailgating and parties with a little CO2 injector as well.

Recently my grandfather gave me his kegerator that was not being used.  It was set up for a Sankey tap.  I changed out all the lines and changed the posts on the tap to ball lock disconnects.  This way I can use my 2.5 gallon keg, and my new 5 gallon keg, as well as commercially available craft beer kegs.  I like to be sure I leave all my bases covered.

So I guess, the answer is some of both!

What is your go to recipe or signature brew?

This is a tough one to answer.  I looked back at my brewing over the last few years, and found that I have put in 37 homebrew beers into my Untappd list.  I think that if I looked into the past, I would see that there was just 1 “recipe” that I made many times.  It combined 2 different Mr. Beer kits, plus some other ingredients that I added in.  This was my grandfather’s “favorite” beer.  Not too strong, and a good hop flavor.  That double hopped pilsner was not a possibility after Mr. Beer discontinued the kits that I mixed.  So I was forced to create my own double hopped pilsner recipe for my grandfather.  This was the first true ground up recipe that I created.  Pater Saazy Pils still needs some work.  My grandfather loved it, but I think it needs a little bit to truly dial it in.

I think other than that, my go-to is the darker beers.  I love brewing porters and stouts.  I love the chocolate, coffee, and toffee like taste in a good solid brew.  I am a big fan of bourbon, vanilla beans, or coffee in the secondary to make a nice complex brew.

What is your schedule for a typical brew day?

I usually brew at night when the family is sleeping, or heading upstairs for the night.  This way there are few distractions, and doors are closed so the brewing smell doesn’t bug anybody since I brew indoors.  On occasion, I have some friends or my dad over while brewing, but it is usually just me running solo.  I almost always have a tasty craft brew treat or a homebrew during my brew time.  My philosophy is brewing time is a great time to be reminded of tasty brew, by drinking one (or a few) and get hopeful your beer will turn out well!

So, a typical start time is 9 PM or later.  I try to be sure I get my water heating before 10:15 if possible.  This way, my night owl time is spent brewing.   After clean-up and getting things put away it usually ends up being somewhere in the 1-2 AM range.

What do you love about home brewing and the industry in general?

I love the creativity that a homebrewer can have.  With Internet ordering, you can get just about anything needed.  I often find myself checking Homebrew Finds quite often to see if there is anything I “need” (wink wink).  There are great resources for homebrewers to tap into that have evolved over the last few years.  You can find tons of recipes, information, studies, and more.  I decided to start my own website to chronicle what I am doing, Adventures In Hombrewing Beer to help me keep better notes of what I am doing, as well as give others information that I have.  The Internet is about sharing information.  Homebrewing is about sharing beer and a love of the creativity aspect.  Beer brings people together.  Homebrew does that even more.

With homebrewing, it also opens you up for trying different things.  Last Thanksgiving, I did a homebrew beer brined turkey.  This year I also made some hot and hoppy pickles with homegrown hops, peppers, cukes, and made a homebrew brine for that as well!

Are you attending any festivals / competitions in the coming months?

I just recently attended a brewing festival that supported a local scholarship fund.  I was able to taste a bunch of great brews from breweries around New York State.  I think by joining the American Homebrew Association recently, I hope will find myself at more local and national festivals that focus on homebrewing.

I also recently entered a city wide homebrew competition.  Although I didn’t place in the competition, the notes from the judges were great for my own knowledge.  I will use the feedback to further refine, and hopefully improve my brewing.

What are your plans for the future and where do you think the industry is headed?

In the future I hope to do more kegging.  By getting the kegerator from my grandfather, I think I will enjoy my homebrew more often, as it is always ready.  I am thinking about joining up with my local homebrew club to help my knowledge and homebrewing levels increase.  I also hope to include BIAB in my repertoire to expand my brewing possibilities.

I see the homebrewing industry grow more.  I think as we share more and more information, we will push the level of brewing and techniques to higher levels.  Gone are the days that you have to pay a ton to get good brews….you just need to spend some time to dial in what you are looking for, and at a fraction of the cost.

Are there any breweries that you admire for what they are producing?

There is a newer local brewery, Three Heads Brewing that has some amazing IPAs.  They do a ton to promote craft beer, as well as the local music scene.  I always seem to love what Dogfish Head is doing.  They do a great job at creating amazing beers.   World Wide Stout would be the craft beer that really pushed me into loving craft beers.   Stone Brewing is always a great one to check out as well.  I would be lacking if I didn’t mention Genesee Brewing.  They are a local brewery that recently put in a pilot system at their brew house.  Lots of good beers coming out of there.

Finally, what is the name of your “one day” brewery?

As of now, I would simply call it Scoppa Brewing Company.  If I had to come up with a new name and a matching logo, I could see me naming it after my first car, a 1977 Toyota Corolla Station Wagon nicknamed “Goldie” for it’s harvest gold color.

For more insights into what makes brewmaster Jerry tick, head over to his website for reviews and insights into brewing.