Brewer of the Week: Brandon Clark
Brandon Clark (a.k.a. HopMan)
When did you start brewing?
What got you brewing?
I’ve always loved beer and after seeing a Sam Adams commercial where the employees were brewing on the stove, I said to my ex-wife, “I can do that.” A few weeks later, I started looking for a kit. As my birthday approached, every kit I found my ex-wife discouraged me from buying. My passion faded. Then my birthday arrived and my ex-wife had just returned from a business trip; she asked me to help her with her bags. I went out to the car and saw several boxes; I immediately knew what it was. She had bought me the best kit offered. It came with one 5 gallon carboy, one 5 gallon bucket, 48 amber bottles, a capper and all the essentials.
When did you know this was no ordinary hobby, it was an obsession?
I knew brewing was more than a hobby after I entered my first three batches into a local homebrew competition and took home two bronze medals. I was instantly hooked. Jokingly I tell beginners that after your first all-grain batch, you will start waking up in the middle of the night with new ideas for your next brew.
When did you join the AHA?
I joined shortly after I got the fever, late 2007.
Do you have a homebrewing disaster you'd like to share?
What true homebrewer hasn’t had their share of disasters? My disaster required twelve stitches to my ankle; two to the main artery and ten to close the skin. While cleaning a glass carboy in my garage, it slipped and shattered on my foot. It left me with an inch wide gash across my ankle. That accident made me switch to a stainless steel conical.
What is your favorite style(s) to brew?
Flanders Red Ale (17B) is my favorite style, however because it takes so long to finish, I enjoy brewing German Wheat styles (15).
Have you ever had a homebrew mistake that turned out great?
Every winter I brew a Christmas Ale. Last year on brew day, after I had already doughed in, I was gathering my kettle ingredients and realized my ex-wife had used all of them in pastries she was making for a Christmas party. In a mad panic I emptied the cupboard looking for some appropriate Christmas spices, and came across a tin of mulling spice that my ex-wife had been saving. Fifteen minutes before flame out, I pitched the whole tin. The seasonal aroma filled the cold crisp air of the garage. Within minutes the aroma lurked though the house and into the room my ex-wife was sitting. Just before pitching my yeast starter of Wyeast 1056, she noted, “That beer sure smells amazing!”
I later found out that this particular mulling spice was a very expensive limited release item and once it was gone, it was gone for the year. I wasn’t able to talk my way out of that argument, but I did end up with a great Christmas Ale.
What is your favorite recipe based off of a commercial style?
One of my favorite recipes is derived from The Brewing Network's, "Can You Brew It?" show on Big Sky’s Moose Drool Brown Ale. This is such a perfect example of the style. I just love that beer.
Are you a BJCP Judge? If so, what is your rank and how long have you been judging?
Not a judge yet, but I’m planning to test this fall.
Have you ever been to any competitions or entered your homebrew into any competitions before?
During the first three years of my brewing hobby I would enter every competition I could find. Now I only enter four or five regional competitions and the NHC during the year.
Do you have a favorite homebrew trick or gadget that you've found to make your beer better/brewing easier, etc?
That’s got to be my stainless steel quick disconnects I got from Beer, Beer, and more Beer. These things are awesome! They have helped me transform my system into individual components. The disconnects have made it quicker and easier to set up and clean up. Plus, it makes me feel like I’m running a big time brewery operation by connecting and disconnecting brew hoses.
Describe your brew system.
My brew system is a simple two-stage single tier design. I have a converted firkin-style half barrel keg for a mash tun and a 15 gallon stainless pot for a kettle. These sit on a metal frame I built with two 90K BTU burners. To transfer, I have a March pump I purchased from Beer, Beer and More Beer. When chilling, I run the boiling wort through a counter flow chiller I built from 20-feet of copper tubing and a high temperature water hose. Then the semi-cooled wort flows through a 30 plate chiller. When it exits the wort is around 65° F to 70° F. I have a variety of fermenters; each is dependent on the style of beer I’m brewing. For my quick turnaround brews, I use a converted Sankey keg. For beers that require long conditioning time, I use standard glass carboys. I ues a 7 gallon conical for brews that require oak cubes or fruit.
How frequently do you brew (times per month or year)?
I brew about twice a month, 10 gallons at a time. I usually give away most of my beer. As you can imagine, my neighbors love me.
What is your favorite malt? Why?
Crystal 60, I use this malt in just about every beer. In my American Ale styles (10), the sweetness balances nicely with the bitterness of the American hops.
What is your favorite hop? Why?
Citra is a great hop. I love the flavors that can be derived from this hop. Mango, pineapple, grapefruit, even lime zest.
What is your dream beer and food pairing?
Double IPA and Stilton cheese. The sharp salty taste to the cheese is intensified by the bitterness of the IPA. The mouth-coating creaminess is then broken down and washed away by the alcohol and CO2 bubbles. If you haven’t tried this pairing, you’re missing out.
Do you have a favorite or house yeast? What qualities do you like about that yeast?
Wyeast 1056 American Ale, it’s a strong clean yeast that allows the malt and hops to showcase their flavors.
Do you belong to a homebrew club? Do you have a good homebrew club story you'd like to share?
I’m the president of the Innovative Brewers of Saint Louis. We’re a small club located in the suburbs of Saint Louis, MO. Once a month we get together and choose a different style to brew, at the following meeting we sample that beer. There’s always plenty of beer to go around.
What is a beer style that is underappreciated and/or could take off given the opportunity and exposure?
People are going to make fun of me for this, but non-alcoholic beer. Sometimes you just want a refreshing beer for the taste, not the alcohol. I believe with greater exposure in homebrew club meetings and competitions, this style could really take off and new flavors will begin to appear.
Is there any advice you would like to give to new homebrewers?
This is a great hobby, don’t over think it. Go all grain as soon as possible.
Do you have a mentor or someone you think the world should know about? Or, tell the homebrewing community a little bit about yourself so we can get to know you! Post some background info on the AHA Forum under the Hombrewer Bios category, and that person may be selected as the next Brewer of the Week.
The AHA Forum is communications central for the homebrewing community. Draw upon the collective knowledge of homebrewers around the world to get your questions answered. Help out your fellow homebrewers with their questions.