We spend a moment with home brewer Chris Hendrick and see where it all started and what he has on the horizon.
So, can you tell us how it all started for you?
Many years ago, I went to a place called Deja Brew in Shrewsbury, MA. This was before the craft brew movement was in full swing. Deja Brew was a place where you could brew your own beer – they provided all the equipment and ingredients. You’d go one time and boil, hop, cool, yeast and then come back when it was time to bottle. They had a cool system where you could drink from past customer’s batches if you agreed to leave a few bottles of your own. It was a great little place. I’d always wanted to try it at home but didn’t know how to get started. Then a couple years ago, I got a Norther Brewer starter kit and haven’t looked back since.
What was your first brew and how did it turn out?
My first beer was a Chinook IPA – it came with the brewing kit I got. It was an extract kit and turned out well. Fairly simple but I was still nervous. I had no idea what I was doing and was paranoid about sanitation. I had done a lot of reading online and didn’t want to ruin that first batch!
Were there any mishaps / funny moments along the way leading to now?
Nothing in particular that I can recall. I’ve had a couple boil overs that led to a mess but in general, smooth sailing. Of course brew day is usually with a friend and a few beers so it’s usually a fun time.
Are there any pieces of equipment that you are looking to buy soon, or are converting for the future?
I still do extract brewing and all grain is always a possibility. It intrigues me but takes a lot more time than extract brewing. I suppose if I get to the point where I want to experiment with my own recipes, I’d start to research the gear required. I do have an old cooler in the garage that would make a good mash tun so maybe that’s next.
Bottle or Keg?
I keg for the simple fact that bottles are a pain in the neck. The cleaning, bottling, capping, waiting two weeks for carbonation… all of it is too much for me. I miss the portability but I bought a couple of ½ gallon growlers and I can take my beer with me. I built a keezer and have three taps in my basement. Can’t ask for much more than that! Maybe I’ll bottle if I have a batch that I know will do well with age but for now, the ease of kegging has won me over.
What is your go to recipe or signature brew?
I don’t have one… I’ve never brewed the same beer twice. I tend to be on the hoppier side of things but my favorite batch was actually a Hoegaarden clone… hefeweizen. I’ve done stouts, brown ales, pale ales, IPAs, a double red ale, DIPA. I haven’t done a lager yet as I don’t have a way to keep fermentation cool enough. Although, I did just pick up an Oktoberfest recipe that uses Nottingham yeast – supposedly a lager result from ale yeast. We’ll see.
What is your schedule for a typical brew day?
I usually brew with a friend of mine so we get together and get started. Get the boil up and get started with the recipe. We have a couple beers and chat as we go. Just a relaxed and chill afternoon. I don’t really have a set routine per se.
What do you love about home brewing and the industry in general?
I can’t cook with any sort of skill so it’s nice to be able to brew beer! I love the variety of what you can produce and the amount of information that is available online. The community is great and very helpful. We have local homebrewing clubs and folks are always willing to lend a hand of share advice.
Are you attending any festivals / competitions in the coming months?
I usually hit Brew Woo in Worcester, MA every year but not much beyond that. I’ve heard that there is a neat brewery bus tour in Vermont so I’m going to look into that. I don’t know that my beer is good enough to enter into competitions so I don’t have any plans there.
What are your plans for the future and where do you think the industry is headed?
I’m going to stick with the hobby for a while. I’ve been brewing for a couple years now and don’t plan to stop any time soon. I think the industry is due for some contraction… breweries are popping up all over the place and I don’t know how long the market can sustain it. That said, I’ll do my part to help it keep going!
Are there any breweries that you admire for what they are producing?
I’m lucky enough to live close to Treehouse Brewery. They just opened a new brewery in Charlton, MA and it is gorgeous. They are a highly regarded brewery that makes some of the best beer in the US. They don’t distribute so you have to go to the brewery to get their beer. The lines can be crazy long but I love the experience. I’m sure they’ve had offers to be bought out because they are just printing money over there. To date, they haven’t given in and I hope they never do. Their independence and willingness to try new things is great. Such a great story.
Finally, what is the name of your “one day” brewery?
I guess it would be Hendrick Brewery. It’s already started on Untappd J https://untappd.com/HendrickBrewery I’ve put every batch I’ve ever done in there so I can always look back and see what I’ve done.