Brewer of the Week: Paul Wicksteed
When did you know this was no ordinary hobby, it was an obsession?
When my lovely wife said “Do you know this is not a hobby anymore, it is now your obsession!” that was the first hint. Then my 5 year old said “are we going to the beer shop again dad?” I started to see the light, that with this obsession I could actually turn it into a business.
What is your "white whale" beer (the beer you'd hunt to the ends of the earth for, and possibly die trying to obtain)?
Being from NZ it’s hard to get a lot of American craft beers, so I am currently hunting for a Dogfish Head 120m IPA (or any of the Seasonal Dogfish Head Brews).
What is your favorite local craft brewery?
Liberty Brewing, it’s a small nano brewery and has put together some amazing beers.
Do you have a homebrewing disaster you'd like to share?
I experimented with a Radler once, but instead of it being a 60/40 beer/lemonade mix, I wanted the beer to be enhanced with lemon. Apparently lemon goes rancid in a bottle conditioned beer over time, so what tasted great when first bottled, tasted absolutely foul when opened at a beer tasting.
What is your favorite style(s) to brew?
Stouts, Porters, and Full bodied British Real Ales. Something that has complex flavors.
What style(s) will you never brew?
I think I will give anything a go, except for trying to clone a commercial beer. Why waste ingredients making a cheap mass produced beer?
What was the first beer you ever brewed? How did it turn out?
First beer was a Brown Ale that I brewed 15 years ago at a friends place. It had that distinctive wet cardboard taste of a poorly made beer. Just recently I found 1 bottle of it hidden away in the corner of my garage, I intended filming the opening of it on my brew review channel, but it meet an untimely demise when I knocked the bottle over and it broke. All I got to experience was the aroma, a nicely aged barley wine fragrance as it spread across the concrete floor.
Have you ever had a homebrew mistake that turned out great?
I made a cider that never carbonated correctly, so I re-fermented the whole batch again, and re-bottled it. 1 month later I tasted it and it still wasn’t carbonated enough, so I dumped it all. Except for a dozen bottles that I found 4 months later, that tasted great, were crystal clear and full of carbonation to the last drop. The problem now is trying to re-create the mistakes that made such a great cider.
What is your favorite recipe based off of a commercial style?
Theakstons Old Peculiar, a legendary British ale that my UK expat boss challenged me to clone. This beer was a great beer to replicate and eventually it ended up as a recipe inspired by the original as it developed into something unique. The beer has been reviewed by both beer experts and friends in New Mexico and always with good feedback. My version called “Peculiar One” will be the first beer that will be in my commercial lineup.
Are you a BJCP Judge? If so, what is your rank and how long have you been judging?
Do you have a favorite homebrew trick or gadget that you've found to make your beer better/brewing easier, etc?
I built my own electronic temperature controller called “the thermentornator” to control fermentation temps, and it works great. I have even started to make them for other brewers. The yeast’s environment is so important when brewing, and a slight temperature change can really change the character of a beer. In order to reproduce a beer, the temperature needs to be monitored carefully.
Describe your brew system.
I brew all grain and partial grain in a BIAB setup. I built my own wort chiller, and ferment in a 7 gallon plastic fermenter setup in a fridge controlled by the thermentornator. Secondary fermentation and maturing is done in corny kegs, and every batch also has a dozen or so bottle conditioned beers for comparisons. I have a large wish list with Blichmann Engineering, just waiting on the large bank balance to make it into a checklist.
How frequently do you brew (times per month or year)?
Once or twice a month, sometimes I run a lot of small 3 gallon test batches to refine a recipe.
What is your favorite malt? Why?
Baird’s Maris Otter Malt, it has a great nutty flavor, and is the historical base for many good British Ales. I also enjoy roasted barley and black malts, being a stout lover.
What is your favorite hop? Why?
New Zealand hops of course. I lived in Nelson and no wonder the hops from there are rated one of the best. Anything that lives in that sunny climate has no chance but to grow to be the best it can be. But for my IPA’s it’s always the high alpha Simcoe and Sticklebract that take the cake.
Do you have a favorite or house yeast? What qualities do you like about that yeast?
Safale US-05 and Safbrew S-33 have never let me down. Its extremely easy to use, and a good price.
Do you belong to a homebrew club? Do you have a good homebrew club story you'd like to share?
Yeah we have a couple great homebrew clubs in Wellington. I belong to a great club that meets once a month, where we all share beers and spirits. The club is focused on the homebrewers and has set plans in motion to put together a 50 gallon nano brewery for the club to use.
What is a beer style that is underappreciated and/or could take off given the opportunity and exposure?
I feel like fruit beers, framboise and krieks don’t get enough love (at least down here in NZ). We can’t make the authentic lambics like those from Belgium, so we are improvising with some very good alternatives. I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t like beer, that doesn’t like a framboise, and it could be the beer to convert the non-beer drinkers.
Have you found other people interested in homebrewing in New Zealand?
We have a revolution starting here in New Zealand; there are so many talented homebrewers who have moved into commercial brewing, and some very unique beers. Kiwis have a very DIY mentality and local breweries are popping up everywhere, in addition to more bars around now that offer craft beers on tap. They are starting to be favored over the more commercial brews, but there’s still a long way to go.
Are there any challenges/difficulties with brewing outside the USA? (Ingredients, laws, customs, etc?)
Equipment is a challenge, we are a little limited in what we can buy, but the good old kiwi attitude means that we will find a way or build it ourselves. Yeasts and hops are sometimes a little hard to get into the country. There are a lot of breweries that import bulk and will sell to homebrewers, making most ingredients accessible. In New Zealand it’s legal to brew your own beer and spirits, but you can’t sell any without having a license, and paying excise tax. To go commercial, I need to get a certificate of health for the brewery setup, a license from my local council allowing me to sell to the public, and pay the tax. We don’t need a distributor though, so we can approach bars independently.
Is there any advice you would like to give to new homebrewers?
That weird ingredient you thought might go well in a beer, throw it in the mash and give it a go. Experimenting with new things is the best way to be innovative.
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.
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