Meet the Home Brewers – Travis Walton
We spend a moment with home brewer Travis Walton 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’d been more interested in drinking beer than brewing beer through my 20s. I got my first bit of homebrew equipment (a Coopers homebrew kit) for my 33rd birthday. It took three brews before I moved to AG brewing with an electric BIAB setup.
What was your first brew and how did it turn out?
My first all grain beer was a stout. The attenuation was ridiculously low, and anyone who tried walked away unimpressed. I’d picked a stout because I figured I could hide any brewing mistakes far better.
Were there any mishaps / funny moments along the way leading to now?
Apart from the usual krausen-filled airlocks the biggest mishap was leaving my electric element on after taking it out of the kettle. I learned pretty quickly that the element can do a lot of damage in a very short amount of time. I still have the burn mark on the blocks my pot sits on to remind me to always turn the element off before taking it out.
Are there any pieces of equipment that you are looking to buy soon, or are converting for the future?
A fermentation fridge will be my next big purchase. For the last three years I’ve used a swamp cooler to control fermentation temperature. Basically it’s a 50 litre plastic tub half filled with water that the fermenter sits in. It keeps a relatively stable temperature, which is good considering the temperature in my town swings between -2 and 40c depending on the season, but it’s difficult to keep it under 20c.
Bottle or Keg?
Bottles, to my continuing annoyance. Bottling is the worst part of the hobby. But you can’t beat the portability. Far easier to bring a six pack of beer to the beach, than drag a full keg.
One day I‘ll start kegging. One day.
What is your go to recipe or signature brew?
I brew a fruited Belgian Wheat beer around October each year. Last year I added Orange zest 5 min from the end of the boil. The year before was Blood Orange zest. I haven’t decided what I’ll do this year.
What is your schedule for a typical brew day?
I don’t suppose it’s much different from anyone else.
Brew day is always a Saturday. If I haven’t picked up my grain the week before, I’ll pop down to the local homebrew shop to grab it and any other ingredients I need. I’ll start heating the water to strike temp around 10am. While it’s doing that I’ll wash and sterilise the fermenter and any other equipment I need. The usual mash schedule for a clean beer calls for a 60min mash-in, followed by a 60min boil.
I take a tonne of readings and notes as I go. Though I’ve only just started taking ph readings since I got into sour brewing a few months back.
Thanks to BIAB I’m able to get a beer into the fermenter in around 4 hours. If I’m kettle souring then I start brewing on Saturday and finish it off on Monday night.
What do you love about home brewing and the industry in general?
Without a doubt the people are the best part of homebrewing and the industry. I’ve met a lot of good people willing to answer all my dumb questions. Being available to answer other people’s questions and pass on knowledge is something I think is really important.
I know a lot of ex-homebrewers who have turned pro. It’s been really eye-opening to see the different paths they all took to end up as professional brewers.
Are you attending any festivals / competitions in the coming months?
I don’t really brew to enter competitions anymore. I tried a couple of times, but none of my beers tend to be style specific. I learned that one the hard way we I came dead last after entering a rum and oak aged stout into a stout comp.
I’m lucky that Melbourne has really good beer festivals. We’re even getting a Sour Beer Festival this time next year!
What are your plans for the future and where do you think the industry is headed?
Every homebrewer wants to open their own brewery don’t they? That’d be the long term goal. Short term I’m going to perfect a pale ale recipe I’ve been working on and keep experimenting with brewing sour beers.
In Australia there’s nearly 400 active breweries. A little over a hundred of those are in my home state alone. The Australian population is only just over 20 million, so I think we may be coming close to hitting the ceiling of the number of viable breweries. Even now you need to do something special to stick out from the crowd.
Are there any breweries that you admire for what they are producing?
Any brewery that has a great story and is brave enough to take the occasional risk. That does describe most of the breweries in my state, but if i had to narrow it down to just three I’d go with:
Red Hill Brewery make my favourite beer: Hop Harvest. Great in bottles, amazing on tap at the brewery. Red Hill grow their own hops too, which I find really admirable.
Boatrocker started out as a clean brewery, but now have a massive sour/barrel program going. I think it may be the biggest in the state. I’m also more than a little jealous.
KAIJU! make amazing, ridiculous IPAs. Their black IPA took first place in an IPA tasting session I had with mates last year. I’m a real fan of the label art.
Finally, what is the name of your “one day” brewery?
Tuesday Night Brewing.Purveyors of fine sour beers.
Feel free to follow me Travis Twitter and Instagram at: @thebeerzilla