Brewer of the Week: David Motter
Name: David Motter
From: Edelstein, IL
When did you start brewing/What got you brewing?
I started to drink craft beer around 2004 at a local Old Chicago. The first homebrew I ever tried was a brown ale from my co-worker, Josh Dressel in 2007. I couldn't believe how great it tasted and was blown away that he made it at home. It really stuck with me that you could make quality beer at home, and for less than buying it at the store.
My wife (fiancé at the time) bought me a Mr Beer kit for Christmas in 2008. I brewed the 3 kits that came with it and that Valentines Day, she upgraded me into extract equipment (buckets and a carboy). I did 8 extract kits and then moved to all-grain in mid-2009. I really like the science and creativity behind brewing. It's great to try new things and experiment.
When did you know this was no ordinary hobby, it was an obsession?
The Mr Beer kits were ok and drinkable, but after my first 5gal extract kit, I was hooked. It was the flat tire kit from Midwest Supplies and it had such great flavor. It is one of the best beers I've ever made.
After that, I wasn't focused on the cost aspect of it and started acquiring gadgets and equipment to really hone in my process to make the best beer possible. When people ask me if it's cheap to brew, I tell them that it can be as cheap or expensive as you want to make it. For me, I like investing in the equipment because I'm a gadget person, but you can make good beer with a stovetop and bucket.
When did you join the AHA?
I joined the AHA in 2010.
What is your "white whale" beer (the beer you'd hunt to the ends of the earth for, and possibly die trying to obtain)?
That's a tough one. I try to sample and bring back craft beer everywhere I go. When I started into craft beer, I wasn't a fan of IPA or hoppy beers, but as time goes on, my palette has changed. One beer that has eluded me so far is Dogfish 120 minute IPA. I really enjoy both the 60 & 90 minute IPA's and am impressed by how they can get such a high alcohol beer with the 120 minute. Some day I will track this down. Pliny the Elder would have been first on the list, but I got to sample that last fall. It lives up to the hype.
What are your favorite craft breweries?
With my location in the Midwest, you can almost always find beer in our kegerator from Schlafly, Left Hand, New Belgium, Summit, and New Glarus. When traveling, I always pick up local stuff that isn't available in our area.
Do you have a homebrewing disaster you'd like to share?
No major disasters, just the normal plugged airlocks and one boil over. My most embarrassing story would have to be when I brewed 2 batches in mid 2009 for gift baskets given to our wedding guests staying at the hotel for the reception. It was pretty hectic, and I cut some corners and didn't give 100% effort on the sanitation. We labeled them the night before our rehearsal and didn't get a chance to try it. I wondered why no one said anything good or bad at the wedding.
After our honeymoon (Munich Oktoberfest, London, and Dublin), I found out why no one said anything. We tried one from each batch and they both had infections. These batches are by far the worst beer I have made to date. I still have a few and try a sip each year to see what's changed.
Do you have a special homebrew related project that you'd like to share?
I built a fermentation chamber based on an idea I got from Mylo Fiore (http://www.wortomatic.com/articles/The-Mother-of-All-Fermentation-Chillers). It allows me to control up to (6) 5gal batches in a small chest freezer. There is a removable center section in the floor of the top box to gain access to the freezer. The box is sealed with (2) 1" layers of insulation. I use cheap aquarium temperature controllers to keep the beer within 1 degree Fahrenheit.
The first controller adjusts the temp in the freezer to keep the coldest batch at temp (probe on the bucket). The other controllers use heating pads to keep the beer at temp. If I have more than 3 batches or am doing lagers and ales, there are (2) fans that circulate colder air from the freezer into the fermentation chamber on top when they need to be cooled below room temp. The setup works very well and allows me to do large combinations of beer types. It also allows for additional cold storage space when I'm not brewing during the summer.
What is your favorite style(s) to brew?
I enjoy brewing American ales and English Brown ales. I'm starting to dabble in lagers.
What style(s) will you never brew?
At this time, I have no desire to brew sour beers. Time could change that, but I just don't care for the taste.
What was the first beer you ever brewed? How did it turn out?
Post the 3 Mr Beer kits, my first kit was a flat tire extract kit from Midwest Supplies. It may be the best batch I've ever made, at least that's how I remember it.
Have you ever had a homebrew mistake that turned out great?
I brewed 2 batches for a party this past November (pumpkin and imperial wheat). Upon kegging both batches, I wanted to add just a little more spice to the pumpkin. We killed the pumpkin and never tapped the wheat. I finally got room in the kegerator and tried some of the wheat over the holiday. Apparently I put the additional spice in the wrong keg. It actually tastes really good and makes a great winter warmer as a spiced imperial wheat beer (8% abv).
What is your favorite recipe based off of a commercial style?
I've done a few fat tire clones. One of my favorite pumpkin beers is from Schlafly. I've made a few attempts at that recipe, but never really dialed it in. It's fun to play around with the different malts and spices to try and match the commercial beer.
The "Can You Brew It" podcasts from The Brewing Network offer quite a few clone examples and give some background to selecting the ingredients as well as interviews with the actual brewery to help with the process. The recipes I've brewed from Brewing Classic Styles have all been excellent.
Are you a BJCP Judge? If so, what is your rank and how long have you been judging?
I'm not a judge, but have thought about it
Do you have a favorite homebrew trick or gadget that you've found to make your beer better/brewing easier, etc?
I use white labs liquid yeast in nearly all of my brews. I usually spend one day a year pressure canning starter wort so it makes doing yeast starters a snap. Using liquid yeast and pitching the right amount of yeast makes better beer. In some styles, you need liquid yeast to get an accurate flavor profile.
As far as gadgets, my therminator plate chiller and march pump have really cut down on the amount of time during the brew day.
Describe your brew system.
My brew stand has 3 tiers and is built out of angle iron. I built it for gravity feed, but now have a pump. I use keg's for my HLT and boil kettle. I use a cooler with stainless hose braid for the mash tun.
The HLT and boil kettle have high pressure propane burners for the heat. I have a water manifold on the back that allows me to run separate lines for filtering the brew water, washing the equipment and running the chiller. That really helps so you don't have to constantly change the hose.
I have plans to modify the brewstand (or build a new one) to be a single tier like the Brutus 10. I'm also going to build a control panel. I've bought all the hardware and electronics to setup a brewtroller controlled system, not sure if my electrical skills are up to the task, but will give it a whirl.
How frequently do you brew (times per month or year)?
I've been averaging about 20-25 batches (mostly 5 gal) per year. I usually do at least 2 batches in a brew session and sometimes even do 3, but that makes for one long day and doesn't leave much time to enjoy the homebrew. Doing multiple batches really cuts down on the time since you can mash in the additional batches while boiling the previous batch.
What is your favorite malt? Why?
I really like Marris Otter. It's a great all around malt and can be used in almost any ale. I like the rich flavor it has.
What is your favorite hop? Why?
Cascade. It's very refreshing and easy to identify. Used in so many pale ales.
What is your dream beer and food pairing?
I like a good hoppy American Brown with a Ribeye steak
Do you have a favorite or house yeast? What qualities do you like about that yeast?
WLP001 - Cal Ale. It produces a very clean flavor profile, ferments well, and flocculates nicely.
Do you belong to a homebrew club? Do you have a good homebrew club story you'd like to share?
I consider The Brewing Network as my homebrew club and am proud to have helped earn club of the year at NHC in 2011. I've listened to about all of the Sunday Session, Brew Strong, and the Jamil Show podcasts and frequently listen back to old sessions if I need to brush up on certain topics. My only complaint is that it's easy to bust out laughing at the humor in the show while listening at work with headphones. It can be embarrassing when that happens.
Is there any advice you would like to give to new homebrewers?
Pay attention to sanitation, it is the first thing that needs to be mastered. Don't get worked up over the details, it will turn out fine. Just relax and have a homebrew or six.
I started entering competitions in 2010 and have done very well. The first beer I entered into a local comp took 3rd place. In my second competition, I earned $600 for my Northern English Brown Ale. I entered my first NHC in 2011 and was humbled with 2 medals and was part of a 3 way tie for Ninkasi (losing due to first round points).
I submitted beers into 10 categories and advanced 4 to the final round, taking Gold with my American Amber Ale and Silver with my English Mild Ale. I made it to the semi-finals in the Samuel Adams longshot competition with my Dopplebock. It was pretty cool getting feedback from Jim Koch, although a free trip to GABF and having it brewed by SA would have been better.