International Brewer of the Week: Krzystoff Kaczmarek
Name: Krzystoff Kaczmarek
Hometown: Bedzin, Poland
What got you brewing?
Difficult to say, but looking back, I think it was when I returned to Poland after three months in Belgium. The contrast between Belgium with its hundreds of beers and Poland where almost all beers tasted the same got me to try to brew a beer by myself.
When did you know this was no ordinary hobby, it was an obsession?
I try to convince myself that this is still an ordinary hobby and I am far from obsession, however, considering a move to a house to have a nice cellar may be a sign of being on the verge of obsession.
What is your "white whale" beer? The beer you'd hunt to the ends of the earth for.
There are so many great beers that I still have not tasted. I am not going to focus on a single beer.
What is your favorite local craft brewery?
Well, in Poland we have three breweries we can consider craft, so there is not a lot to choose from. I think my favorite one is Pinta. They have introduced some previously unknown styles to the Polish market, and more importantly, they are brave enough to brew such unusual beers like sahti or cloned Grodziskie.
Do you have a homebrewing disaster you'd like to share?
Not a real disaster yet (knock on wood), only a few accidents at work, like an airlock clogged by yeast or a blown gasket in the swing top bottle.
What is your favorite style(s) to brew?
I don’t have one, and every season I try to brew a few different styles. Statistically speaking, it would be an English porter.
What style(s) will you never brew?
Never say never.
What was the first beer you ever brewed? How did it turn out?
Lager from a Cooper’s brew kit. It turned out surprisingly nice, considering that I started the fermentation at an ambient temperature. After a day or two, when the aroma was coming off the airlock, it made me check the Cooper’s webpage and move the fermenter to cold place.
Have you ever had a homebrew mistake that turned out great?
None so far.
What is your favorite recipe based off of a commercial style?
One of my first brews was a witbier, which I tried to make similar to Hoegaarden. I was not very close, but quite good nevertheless. The first all-grain brew was a Hobgoblin clone from “Can You Brew It,” but my mashing temperature was way off. I will repeat it, this time correctly. Considering how much I like this beer, it may become my favorite commercial clone recipe.
Do you have a favorite homebrew trick or gadget that you've found to make your beer better/brewing easier, etc?
Yes, patience. When you taste your beer shortly after bottling and it’s either a disappointing or almost undrinkable, as long as it does not seem to be infected—give it time. It is surprising what yeast can do with your beer given enough time.
Describe your brew system.
A very simple system consisting of a electrically heated kettle (mash tun and brewing kettle in one) and a few plastic fermenters. Living in a flat poses certain challenges when it comes to the size of your personal brewery.
How frequently do you brew (times per month or year)?
I usually brew once per month, only in the cold season (November - March). This year though, I am planning to continue brewing in summer using saison yeast. I will need to come up either with an additional storage space or increase consumption rate.
What is your favorite malt? Why?
I have just started all-grain (four batches) so still don’t have a favorite malt.
What is your favorite hop? Why?
Goldings for its mild floral/spicy aroma.
What is your dream food and beer pairing?
Nice dubbel with Carbonnade Flamande.
Do you have a favorite or house yeast? What qualities do you like about that yeast?
No, although I suppose I have most often used Safale S-04. Easy, cheap and quickly ferments with a great flocculation and clean flavor.
Do you belong to a homebrew club? Do you have a good homebrew club story you'd like to share?
I brew alone, with a little help from my wife and sometimes my friends.
What is a beer style that is under appreciated and/or could take off given the opportunity and exposure?
I suppose it depends on where you are. I would like to see Grodziskie as a popular beer, partially because of it being one of a few beers to be considered as historically local, as well as a great thirst quencher in hot summer.
Have you found other people interested in homebrewing in your country?
Yes, in Poland the homebrewing community is quite large and active. Besides a number of homebrewing competitions across the country, there a few beer festivals where you can always meet homebrewers. There is also the Polish Association of Homebrewers which promotes homebrewing and general beer culture. I have to pride myself on influencing a couple of people to start homebrewing.
Are there any challenges/difficulties with brewing outside the USA? (ingredients, laws, customs, etc.?)
It is quite a comfortable situation in Poland—homebrewing is legal and you do not need to meet any requirements. Nowadays, we also have a good selection and easy access to ingredients, although not as great as in U.S. The Polish market is significantly younger and smaller.
Is there any advice you would like to give to new homebrewers?
Brewing is not a rocket science, humanity has been doing this for six thousands years, so don’t overcomplicate it and simply brew a good beer.
What is the most popular beer in Poland?
Judging by sales volume, the most popular is Tyskie Groni - international lager brewed by the SABMiller owned Kompania Piwowarska. In general, the beer market is dominated by international lagers brewed by three large brewing companies.
Can you buy American beer in Poland?
Yes, although only in shops specializing in beer. I believe the most popular and available are beers from Anchor Brewing, Flying Dog, and Anderson Valley.