So, can you tell us how it all started for you?
My other half used to brew wine, so when I was looking for a new hobby, beer seemed like a good choice, especially as we had some of the equipment already.
What was your first brew and how did it turn out?
Whilst I can remember my very first all grain brew, ( it was a lovely Ringwood Fortyniner clone ), I cannot remember exactly which was my first kit beer that I brewed. If it wasn’t an EDME stout kit then that was one of the first and it comes out lovely if you brew it with dark dried malt extract instead of brewing sugar.
Were there any mishaps / funny moments along the way leading to now?
When I first started, I used to be a big believer in airlocks. I lived in an old cottage in Poole, where we only kept the main living room at a decent temperature, so the fermenting bins used to live on top of a table in the corner of the room. Our cats used to take offence at the bubbling airlocks disturbing their nap and used them as punch bags, regularly swiping them so hard they fleew out of the fermenter and across the room. This lead to me ditching airlocks, not sealing the lids tightly and just covering the fermenters in a black bag. The cats could now sleep in peace on top of the fermenter without bubbling annoying them and flying airlocks disturbing us.
Are there any pieces of equipment that you are looking to buy soon, or are converting for the future?
I just bought a new fermenting fridge as my old one died just before Christmas. I may buy a new fermenter soon as I should be able to fit 2 or 3 in the new fridge at once.
Bottle or Keg?
It depends on the batch size and what I am brewing for. I normally keg for use here at home, but if it is a small experimental batch or a style I know I won’t want to get through quickly then I may bottle the whole batch. I do try to put some in bottles from every batch now though, as it is good to have some to send out as beer mail or enter into a competition if I’m happy enough with the beer.
What is your go to recipe or signature brew?
The recipe I have brewed most often is a variation on the gorgeous Bourbon Vanilla Imperial Porter (BVIP) recipe by Denny Conn. I usually have a keg of it on over Christmas each year, making slight variations to the recipe based on what ingredients and what spirit I have available at the time. You can find Denny’s recipe here http://wiki.homebrewersassociation.org/BourbonVanillaImperialPorter
What is your schedule for a typical brew day?
It depends if I am using my multi vessel RIMs system or the smaller all in one Beer Torrent. As I most often brew on the smaller system now, the day goes much quicker.
It usually starts a day or 2 before brew day with me running my water through the RO system and working our what I want to brew.
Brew day then tends to be very relaxed where I program the machine, add and acidify the water and let that get up to temp whilst I weigh out grains and mill them if necessary.
After doughing in, it’s time to head back in from the garage and get on with other stuff until the mash out has nearly finished.
I go and lift the grains out, letting them drain whilst weighing/measuring out boil additions of hops, protofloc, yeast nutrient etc. Before removing the grain pipe and putting it in the sink to finish draining any last drips.
Once we are up to a boil and the first addition is done, I tend to head back inside the house and talk to people on brewing groups etc until it is time for the next addition.
Finally, I get the chiller in the boiler and prep the fermenter.
I’ve got very comfortable with the brewing process on each of my brewing kits now so brew day tends to go very smoothly.
What do you love about home brewing and the industry in general?
One of the things that distinguish this hobby, and much of the industry, is how cooperative it is. You will always find plenty of other brewers happy to help with any question or advice and there is a real community spirit that can be missing in other environments.
Are you attending any festivals / competitions in the coming months?
As I am the organiser of the Welsh National Homebrew Competition, I’ll definitely be attending that one. I also try to judge at both the London competition in May and the Nationals in September. I’m also hoping to attend BrewCon again if there is one this year.
What are your plans for the future and where do you think the industry is headed?
I’m going to keep on brewing, taking inspiration from all over the place regarding what I brew next. I’ll keep on judging, and enter beers into competitions, however, I cannot see how I could ever top my performance last year where I won the UK Nationals with my cherry lambic.
Where the industry is going is hard to predict. In many ways, it seems to follow homebrewing in chasing one fad after another. One year it is all Black IPA, the next, every single brewery has to have a NEIPA on tap. I believe that dark beer has been under-represented for years so hopefully, we will see a porter and stout revival. I don’t believe we have hit peak beer yet, so I also expect to see more small breweries starting up, mainly headed up by passionate homebrewers.
Are there any breweries that you admire for what they are producing?
There are a few that are doing some really great and interesting beers recently. Tiny Rebel with the Imperial Puft, an imperial marshmallow porter. Mad Dog Brewing with a really inventive beer that uses ancho chillies and a well-known type of filled chocolate flavoured biscuits in their Ancho Chocolate Cheesecake and Lost & Grounded from Bristol who are consistently turning out some really nice beers.
Finally, what is the name of your “one day” brewery?
Whilst I have no intention of ever going pro, I believe having to brew the same beer again for the 6th time this week would suck the joy out of it, my home brewery is known as Daft Cat Brewing both on Facebook and YouTube.
So there you have it, another interesting interview with a homebrewer – a big thank you to Sarah for giving up her time. If you fancy being interviewed please feel free to get in touch.