Dr. Samuel Helms

This is Dr. Samuel Helms (aka Astrivian in the Forum) from Denver, CO.

What Got you Brewing?

I am still pretty new to homebrewing: I am about 1.5 years into the hobby with about a dozen brews under my belt. I only brew high gravity beers (>1.100 OG), just for the fun of it mostly, plus I think the higher ABV brings out some unique flavors. I did one super high gravity beer that came in at 22% ABV but it tasted terrible so I dumped it.

Are you a member of a homebrew club?

I am brewing on my own for the most part as I am not part of a homebrew club. The forums here and my brew store are where I get most of my advice. It has worked out pretty well so far; I have only had a few disasters. Luckily, I brew 1 gallon test batches of my really experimental beers, so if it turns out horrible (which it frequently does), I only wasted 1 gallon.

What is the first beer you ever brewed? How did it turn out?

The first beer I brewed was an IPA from a kit. It was okay but sort of uninteresting. Then I got my hands on Beer Alchemy (for my Mac) and went to town. The one I like the most is “Best One Yet” (from the Black Flag song). It was supposed to be an imperial IPA but is too dark, I think, to qualify in that category. Instead, it is like a cross between a IIPA and a Christmas Ale. Weird yes, but very good.

Are you a BJCP Judge?

I am still too much of a noob to be a BJCP judge, plus I really don’t care about the pre-defined categories. Don’t get me wrong I am not trashing the whole BJCP thing; just saying that when it comes to my homebrew, I go balls-out and try to create some crazy stuff.

Describe your Brewing System.

I brew 5 gallons batches with the occasional 1 gallon test batch. My “system” is a canning pot and my kitchen stove, which I have ruined with boilovers (my wife is thrilled). Now I boil in a turkey fryer outside, so if it makes a mess it is easy to clean up. I am just starting to look into doing 10 gallon batches, but I have to wait and see. The first up for my 10 gallon batch will be my summer ale, No Average Joe. It is really popular with my friends (and me too). It is a nice light golden-aleish beer with orange and lemon peel. Very refreshing. Plus it weighs in at 11% ABV so it relaxes you quickly. I like to drink one after I mow the lawn on a hot summer day.

How frequently do you brew?

I try to brew as often as I can financially do so, typically once per month. Once, I brewed a 5 gallon batch every week for 6 weeks. Since all my beer is over 10% ABV I had a great time drinking it. I love that homebrewing is relatively inexpensive. I used to keep a 100 gallon salt water reef tank and I had to dump hundreds of dollars into it almost every month. When my son was born I gave up that hobby. To brew a five gallon batch of good strong beer cost only about $60; much more affordable.

Who do you like to brew with?

I have a 2 year old son who I am teaching to brew, minus the drinking of the beer of course. He likes to stand on the table and stir the mash but he gets bored with the rest and would rather play with his Thomas and Friends. Plus, toddlers don’t get the whole “sanitization” thing. He once threw his book into my primary. I called it Book Beer and it tasted like hops and paper.

“If you could serve your homebrew to someone famous, who would it be and what would you give her/him?”

Wow what a question. My favorite breweries are (all tied for first) Avery, Dogfish Head, Russian River, and Lost Abbey. If I could give my beers to any of the head people from those places I would love their feedback. Not sure if they qualify as “famous” though, at least outside of craft brewing. Outside of beer, I would give my homebrews to Alton Brown from the Food Network (host of Iron Chef America and Good Eats).

How do you come up with the names for your beer?

My names for beers mostly come from punk rock, alchemy, or Freemasonry (I am 32 degree). Some samples include: Mercurius, No Average Joe, Best One Yet, Rise Above, Green Lion, Setting Maul, By the Square (IIPA), Ambrosial, Cognicide, and Dream of the Rood (Trippel). I do make my own labels but they are all PDF so I can’t post them, sorry. I have a buddy that is a great artist and I am starting to hit him up for some label artwork. I will post those when I can.

What is the craziest brew you have ever done?

I think the craziest brew I did was an “imperial ginger ale.” It was a 14% ABV ginger ale brewed as a 1 gallon test batch. It was HORRIBLE!!! I added way to much coriander and it made the beer taste like leather. I am down with trying it once more, minus the coriander, and I will let you know how it turns out.

Thanks everyone! Excited to be an AHA member!


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