So, can you tell us how it all started for you?
It all seems a long time ago, roughly 4 to 5 years now but my girlfriend bought me a bucket, recipe book and some simple equipment. All very basic kit but it was perfect to get my feet wet. The recipe book had wines and recipes for flavouring base spirits. With pages marked on what she wanted me to make so with this I embarked on making some mead. Not sure the end result was great but it taught me some patients as it said once bottled to stash away and try in a year. I really enjoyed the process and was hooked. I then made some Damson wine that was pretty good if very strong! It got me thinking about how many good beers were surfacing in supermarkets such as Sierra Nevada Pale ale and Brewdog’s Punk IPA. So beer was the next step.
What was your first brew and how did it turn out?
My first beer was a Young’s American IPA kit. It was a good brew and the process was simple and it was that good a rebought it again to remake it. This pushed me to want to make beer from grain and so it began.
Were there any mishaps / funny moments along the way leading to now?
I have had a fair few mishaps. You learn from your mistakes. I used to always take the lid of my fermenter when dry hopping then take the lid off again to the stir them a ever few days and once I took the lid off to check what the hydrometer said that I left in the fermenter and there was mould. I had somehow managed to infect my brew. I bottled it expecting that the infection hadn’t got into the beer and was on the top. Checked the bottles a few days later and they all had this mould on so down the sink they went. You need little the mistakes to teach you to sanitise, sterilise and clean everything well.
Adding fruit to beer is always a good experience the first time. You never leave enough head space so when the fruit hits the beer and you get a lot of activity again it generally means you’re going to be cleaning up your airlock or blow off tube every couple of hours. Fingers crossed it doesn’t push the lid off your fermenter otherwise you’re in for a fun ride also.
Are there any pieces of equipment that you are looking to buy soon, or are converting for the future?
I have recently got a brew fridge so will see how this treats me for a while. It’s the hobby that just keeps you wanting more. I can remember conversations with my girlfriend about not needing anything else then I got an all in one system (Ace Microbrewery), I have 2 kegs now and the list goes on. I have been looking at getting a stainless steel fermenter as I want to make a few sours and age something, oh and I do want a reverse osmosis filter.
Bottle or Keg?
What is your go to recipe or signature brew?
Anything hoppy is pretty much my go to. I do like hops a lot! I have only re-brewed a few recipes like raspberry wheat beer has been through a few renditions, maybe this is even my signature brew. I have been trying to use very similar ingredients and changing the hops around to taste the changes they bring to the recipe.
What is your schedule for a typical brew day?
A typical brew day consists of getting up early, moving everything from my outhouse into the kitchen where I will be taking it over for the next 6 hours or so. I then fill the ace with my mash water and get it heating with the addition of a crushed campden tablet to dechlorinate. Whilst my mash water is on I weigh out my mineral additions and weigh out my grain. I add my minerals to the grains as I’ve heard a few brewers talk about dry to dry and wet to wet. Once these are ready I am just waiting for the water to get up to temperature for the mash, after 10 mins or so I check the Ph of the mash and adjust accordingly. When I hit the target mash temp I mash in. I Mash for an hour then do a 20 min mash out. Then out with the spent grain and on with the boil, I weigh out my hops now and vacuum seal what is surplus to my needs. Then I cool with a wort chiller to pitching temperature then transfer and oxygenate the wort to a clean and sterilised fermenter pitch the yeast. Then place in the ferm fridge set temperature on the inkbird and let it go. I will have been cleaning as I go but now it’s time to finish it all off and tidy up the chaos back to the outhouse ready for its next use next brewday.
It always takes longer than I expect but I am in no rush just happy to be making beer.
What do you love about home brewing and the industry in general?
I can’t get enough of the process from start to finish. I really enjoy the recipe design, reading lots about the style of beer I am making, what grain, hops, water profile and yeast I’ll be using. Once its fermented you can to taste what you have created.
If I had more free time and space I would make beer everyday but sadly I don’t have the space or the time.
I get a subscription to BYO magazine from the states and that gives you an insight to the homebrew scene and industry they have going on over there. As for here in the UK I think we are slightly behind on what is going on over there. It will be interesting to see how it changes here as last year was the first year of BrewCon in London which I attended and really enjoyed what was going on.
Are you attending any festivals / competitions in the coming months?
There are plenty of competitions going on up and down the country all year round but I am not sure I am interested in competing in these. I have entered one and my package never arrived till after the deadline, thanks Royal mail. Saying this I am going to a local competition in a local brewery and hopefully will partake in a competition to have your beer made at another local brewery.
As for Festivals not sure I will make it to any but you never know maybe I’ll get down to London again for BrewCon.
What are your plans for the future and where do you think the industry is headed?
I do like the idea of working in a brewery and I have applied for some positions and been unsuccessful, I am not giving up though.
Not sure where the home brewing industry is going apart from us as homebrewers are almost at a point where we have access to exactly the same equipment as breweries so we can make beer as good as them without the cost implications. Hopefully we are going to see fresher hops with more availability.
Are there any breweries that you admire for what they are producing?
There are loads! I’ll start local : Brew York, Brass Castle, Turning Point, Bad Seed, Northern Monk, North Brewing Co, Wilde Child, Magic Rock, Cloudwater, Verdant, Deya, Kernel, Brew by Numbers, Brewdog and I am sure there are loads I have missed out inbetween. There are loads of international breweries I admire to for the beer they produce.
Brew York have not been around long and have already expanded their capacity which is great news the brewery tap room is great and always have their beer on. I recently participated in a brew day for a beer that is to be aged in barrels for a year as part of a Tryuanry event.
Northern Monk are expanding and making loads of great beers as part of their patrons project and hold beer festivals like Hopcity and Darkcity.
Verdant are creating some of the hoppiest beers around and are back canning so we can all try these tasty numbers at home.
I can talk all day about beers, I am guessing I am just keen about what I like to drink and make!
Finally, what is the name of your “one day” brewery?
I don’t think I have a name as I struggle with naming anything even my beers. I’d leave that to someone more creative in that area than myself.
So there you have it, another interesting interview with a homebrewer – a big thank you to Roddy Macpherson for giving up his time. If you fancy being interviewed please feel free to get in touch.