Brewer of the Week: Kent Shultz
Name: Kent Shultz
When did you start brewing/What got you brewing?
I started brewing in January 2009 while finishing college in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I had just begun to appreciate craft beer and thought it would be fun to try making some of the beer styles I couldn't always find authentic (and fresh) examples of. After attending a homebrewing demonstration by Dave Knott at his High Gravity Homebrew store, I had to give it a shot.
When did you know this was no ordinary hobby, it was an obsession?
When I moved to San Diego in the Spring of 2010. The passion of the homebrewing and craft brewing community in Southern California blew me away, and my hobby soon went from a casual interest to keeping me awake at night thinking about that next batch of beer. I became particularly obsessed after I started all-grain brewing several months later.
So you won the NHC gold in the amber hybrid beer category last year (congrats by the way), how many entries did you put in?
I submitted 5 beers to 6 categories. I knew that my Dusseldorf Alt stood the best chance of advancing to the Final Round, but when it barely squeaked by with a regional third place, I figured it wasn't likely to place in June. Luckily I was wrong!
You've only been brewing for three years, how did you get so good so quick?
I'm flattered, but I definitely have a lot to learn still. I wouldn't have gotten up to speed so quickly without the wealth of homebrewing resources available. It must have been rough for those who got started 20 or 30 years ago as craft/home brewing was just picking up steam. I stocked up on many of the essential books early on, poring over them, placing them under my pillow at night, reading them in the shower, etc.
Let's hear about the homebrew incident with the police...
Wow, ok. I spent a long weekend visiting some friends in Miami last March and my Dad calls me as I'm boarding my flight back to San Diego. "Son, I got a call from the San Diego Police this afternoon and they say they're looking for you." He said they didn't tell him much -- only that it was related to a "narcotics complaint". Given that, he wasn't ready to tell them I had gone away for a long weekend in Miami. Alarmed but innocent, I figured I would call them after my flight and see what they wanted. When I landed in San Diego, I got on the phone with a very testy detective who told me if I had delayed my call any longer, she had been ready to call the Fire Department to knock my apartment door in with a battering ram. Some neighbors had seen my homebrewing equipment and thought I was running a meth lab. Thankfully, she believed my story pretty readily and I was off the hook without any further investigation (I'm sure they had done background checks on me). I've heard of hops being mistaken for marijuana before, but this one surprised me. Homebrewers: look out for nosy neighbors!
You seem to like German beers and bratwursts, are you German? Have you made the trip to Octoberfest yet?
I have a small bit of German in me, but a larger percentage of my heritage--25%--is Norwegian. The Norwegian blood is probably the reason I can't grow a mustache or beard -- a huge hurdle to ever becoming a brewer to be taken seriously. I haven't made the trip yet, but Oktoberfest in Munich is certainly at the top of my list for beer adventures.
What are your favorite craft breweries?
Locally, AleSmith, Ballast Point, and Pizza Port. I go to Pizza Port Ocean Beach every week and was thrilled for them when they won Best Small Brewpub/Brewer at the GABF this year. Others favorites are Anchor, Great Divide, Boulevard, Oskar Blues, Shipyard, and Capitol City in DC.
Do you have a special homebrew related project that you'd like to share?
I just bought a new stand-up fridge that should be roomy enough to convert to a 3-tap kegerator. I'm thinking it would be cool to cover the entire front of it in chalkboard paint. Aside from listing the beers on tap, friends would have plenty of room to leave glowing feedback, draw obscene pictures, and what have you.
What is your favorite style(s) to brew?
I love to brew British ales and malty German beers. Favorites would be Best Bitter, Brown ale, Old ale/English strong ale, Oktoberfest, Altbier, and Munich Dunkel. I like hoppy American ales too, but I always add plenty of malt character to balance.
What style(s) will you never brew?
Any style that requires German Hefeweizen yeast. I really want to like hefeweizen and dunkelweizen, but the clove and banana flavors (especially clove) just don't do anything for me. The high carbonation is a turn off for me as well. Of course, palates evolve, so in 5 years it could be my favorite style. Never say never...
What was the first beer you ever brewed? How did it turn out?
It was an English Brown ale kit from High Gravity Homebrewing. The beer had a sort of nondescript flavor, but it was refreshing, free of infection and was attenuated well enough. My friends and I called it a successful first shot. We brought it on a camping trip and it induced a very restful sleep among us all.
What is your favorite recipe based off of a commercial style?
I haven't brewed it yet, but I'm itching to try the Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale clone that the Brewing Network's Can You Brew It guys did. It is a unique IPA, and one of my favorites.
Do you have a favorite homebrew trick or gadget that you've found to make your beer better/brewing easier, etc?
I have a steel mesh strainer that I folded over in half and affixed to my brew kettle's pickup tube. It does a nice job of keeping pellet hop sludge and break material out of the fermenter, while providing enough surface area to prevent clogs and stuck runoffs. I got the idea from the website of the Knights of the Mashing Fork homebrew club.
Describe your brew system.
My mash/lauter tun is a 10 gal cylindrical cooler with a concentric steel mesh washing machine tube for a manifold. I perform boils with a 15 gallon stainless steel kettle fired by propane, and chill with a 50' immersion chiller fed by an ice bath and a small water pump. No brewing sculpture and no large pumps make for some back-breaking afternoons! I think my next upgrade has got to be a whirlpool chiller.
How frequently do you brew (times per month or year)?
Between 1 and 3 times a month depending on how busy I am. One time last year I brewed every weekend for a month, but that is pushing my limits. So many beers, so little time...
What is your favorite malt? Why?
Munich malt, because it tastes so damn beery! When used liberally, the resulting beer can taste like liquid bread - it's sort of pure and elemental and beautiful - and to me, the essence of the flavor of beer. But it's just as useful in smaller amounts, as it turns up the general maltiness a degree or two without being aggressive.
What is your favorite hop? Why?
East Kent Goldings, because I like my hops like I like my women - delicate, fine, and not too pungent. Seriously, it's got so much going on that it's great in single hop beers, but it also pairs well with plenty of other hops too. A recent Zymurgy article described English hops (not just EKG) as having a ‘Garden earth' quality, compared to the ‘Forest earth' quality of Hallertau Mittelfruh. A very apt comparison, I think, and I love that flowery-fresh character of East Kent Goldings in a bitter.
Do you have a favorite or house yeast? What qualities do you like about that yeast?
I'm going to cheat and give two answers. On the clean side, WLP029 German Ale/Kolsch has become my go-to. Clean, but not too clean; the slight sulfur suggests you are drinking a lager, but mild fruitiness suggests an ale. For English beers, the flavor and aroma of WLP002 is hard to beat, and the flocculation is insane. I like to try different strains whenever I can, so these are among the few I have used more than a couple times.
Do you belong to a homebrew club? Do you have a good homebrew club story you'd like to share?
Yes, I joined the Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity (QUAFF) about a year ago. Everyone I've met has been so generous and welcoming. I know the club puts on a lot of great events throughout the year, but it seems like every time one comes up I've already got prior plans. I promise to make it to one soon...
Is there any advice you would like to give to new homebrewers?
Don't be afraid to learn new stuff and upgrade your brewing process. The next step can often seem intimidating, but when you make that step, you'll be glad you did and you'll wonder why you didn't do it sooner. Brew often. We are all lucky to have so many resources out there (great books, knowledge of fellow brewers, podcasts, etc), but there is no substitute for your own experience. After all, everyone has a unique brew system and process.