Brewer of the Week: Robert Rys
Name: Robert Rys
Hometown: Roland Park, Kansas
Homebrew Club: KC Nanobrews
When did you start brewing? What got you brewing?
It started a few years ago when I was at a party with some friends who were avid homebrewers. I tried some of their beers and was impressed. I was under the assumption that homebrew was similar to backwoods moonshine, but their brew smelled of fresh hops, tasted amazing and I didn’t go blind! I went home and immediately started scouring the Internet for information. A few weeks later, my wife bought me a beginners brew kit for my birthday. She probably regrets it now…
When did you know this was no ordinary hobby, it was an obsession?
Probably the first time I received a massive hop shipment. I always bought ingredients one batch at a time, which is expensive, so when I saw a good deal on fresh hops I jumped all over it. I literally stared at the box for a good 10 minutes and kept asking myself, “Where the hell am I going to put all this?”
When did you join the AHA?
I joined the AHA about six months ago. After a year and half of brewing, I had a couple of batches that I thought tasted good and wanted some unbiased feedback. The AHA provided the most comprehensive list of competitions and was a great information source, so it was a no-brainer to join.
What is your "white whale" beer (the beer you'd hunt to the ends of the earth for, and possibly die trying to obtain)? They’re a few out there that I would like to try, but I don’t bother hunting down specific beers. I feel any company can make a beer seem like it’s the best in the world with some effective marketing or a limited release. I try not to give into the hype. My white whale will come to me in due time, until then I’ll kick back and enjoy another beer.
What are your favorite craft breweries?
Founders, Bells, Deschutes, Green Flash, Stone, Lagunitas, Russian River...the list goes on and on.
Do you have a homebrewing disaster you'd like to share?
It was back when I was still priming bottles. I came home to find one of my 32 oz. flip top bottles had fallen victim to a bottle bomb. The whole house reeked of beer and our closet (aka fermentation chamber) was a mess. Lesson learned, I now store bottles in a bin in the basement.
Do you have a special homebrew related project that you’d like to share?
My first big project was a keezer build. My woodworking skills would probably make Ron Swanson cringe, but I managed to piece it together.
What is your favorite style(s) to brew?
Definitely IPA! It’s my favorite style to drink, so I go through those kegs quicker than any other style. I also enjoy the process of weighing out the hops and the aroma that comes with each addition.
What style(s) will you never brew?
Personally I’m not a huge fan of sours or meads, but I don’t think there is any style I wouldn’t try at least once.
What was the first beer you ever brewed? How did it turn out?
My first brew was an extract Irish stout. I had a couple of friends over and, as expected, we drank too much. The only major mistake we made was that we forgot to top it off, so I had three gallons and the ABV ended up being 10%. The beer was actually pretty good and made me want to continue brewing.
What is your favorite recipe based off of a commercial style?
That would have to be the all-grain clone recipe of Pliney the Elder. It took gold at two separate competitions and was my first imperial IPA. Fermentables are 2-row, carapils, corn sugar and Caramel 40L. Hops were Cascade, Magnum, Goldings, Centennial, Columbus and Simcoe. (full recipe here)
Do you have a favorite homebrew trick or gadget that you've found to make your beer better/brewing easier, etc?
Relax, don't worry, have a home brew (RDWHAHB). It may be a bit cliché but it really does work. I’ve found it’s pretty hard to mess up a beer and some mistakes can be a good learning experience.
Describe your brew system.
Just the basics. Mash tun, 7-gallon boil kettle, burner, immersion chiller, buckets and glass carboy. I believe a good understanding of the process, ingredients, temperature control and sanitation is far more important than a fancy rig.
How frequently do you brew (times per month or year)?
2-3 times a month
What is your favorite malt? Why?
2-Row for its reliability and versatility.
What is your favorite hop? Why?
I’ve been experimenting with several varieties, but Centennial is my go-to hop. It really is a super hop, nice clean bitterness and big punch of aroma.
What is your dream beer and food pairing?
This is a tough one. I became a vegetarian several years ago and only one local restaurant has done a five-course vegetarian food and beer pairing. It’s hard enough living in the BBQ capitol of the world and finding a decent meatless meal, much less one that is paired specifically with beer. I would love to see more restaurants offer meatless options at their pairings.
Do you have a favorite or house yeast? What qualities do you like about that yeast?
Wyeast California Lager #2112. I used it on my award-winning California Common. I like lagers, but I don’t have a way to ferment at cold temperatures. Fermenting at a higher temp with this yeast gave me the malty, clear beer I wanted.
Do you belong to a homebrew club? Do you have a good homebrew club story you'd like to share?
About a year ago, four friends and I started up KC Nanobrews. Our goal is to spend time with people who have a common passion for beer and brewing, as opposed to some clubs where there is more competitive, critical atmosphere. Anyone is welcome to join and we don’t charge dues. We plan monthly brew days, events (such as brewery tours) or just get together for a few beers. We recently had a great time celebrating Big Brew by joining in on the noon toast and brewing 20 gallons of beer.
Is there any advice you would like to give to new homebrewers?
Don’t be afraid to go all-grain. I was hesitant at first, but once I did I never looked back.