International Brewer of the Week: Jeremy Sambrooks
Name: Jeremy Sambrooks
Hometown: Yangebup, Australia
I've been a homebrewer since: 2008
What got you brewing?
I was a beer geek first, a beer writer second and a homebrewer third. I write for the Australian beer magazine Beer & Brewer and I initially started brewing in order to have a better understanding and appreciation of beer to give my writing more credibility. Once I made my first really good beer, I was hooked.
When did you know this was no ordinary hobby, it was an obsession?
Probably when I stopped working out the cost of brewing a batch of beer. All that mattered was making the best beer possible. Once I was brewing several times more beer than I could possibly drink and giving most of it away. That was probably about two years after I started brewing.
What is your "white whale" beer (the beer you'd hunt to the ends of the earth for, and possibly die trying to obtain)?
It was Westvleteren 12, but I’ve been to Belgium twice now and cycled to the Sint Sixtus abbey to sample the ‘world’s best beer’ both times—tough work, but someone’s got to do it. Now it would probably be Pliny the Younger.
What is your favorite local craft brewery?
Feral. It’s clearly the best brewery in Australia and in my opinion, one of the best breweries in the world. I consider myself extremely lucky to live just 40 minutes from Feral.
Do you have a homebrewing disaster you'd like to share?
The first time I ever brewed in winter, I had no temperature control and was living in a house with virtually no insulation—it used to get close to freezing inside. I wrapped the fermenter with a blanket and put a heat lamp directly next to it. The heat lamp set fire to the blanket and then the carpet! Thankfully I was home at the time and put the fire out before it burned the house down!
What is your favorite style(s) to brew?
It’s not technically a style, but definitely session beers. I enjoy the challenge of brewing beers of less than 4 percent ABV that are full of flavor and not lacking in body. I placed first at the West Coast Brewers ‘America Hell Yeah!’ competition in 2012 with a 3.8 percent ABV amber ale, beating several IPAs in the process.
What style(s) will you never brew?
I have a goal to eventually brew every BJCP style, so none!
What was the first beer you ever brewed? How did it turn out?
A Coopers Lager that came with my first kit. My sanitation was lacking and temperature control nonexistent, so the beer was awful.
Have you ever had a homebrew mistake that turned out great?
I once fished a dropped thermometer out of wort post-chill with my bare hand. My clean, American blonde ale was obviously contaminated, but the end result was a rather flavorsome Belgian pale ale.
What is your favorite recipe based off of a commercial style?
Before I stepped up to all-grain brewing, I did a pretty good extract clone of Stone & Wood Pacific Ale. Aim for an O.G. of 1.045 with 90 percen Extra Light DME and 10 percent Wheat DME, single hop with Galaxy to 30 IBUs, adding the majority of hops at 10 and 0 minutes. The brewery dry hops with Galaxy, but I got more than enough hop aroma with lots of late additions and a rapid chill. Ferment with a clean ale yeast.
Are you a BJCP Judge? If so, what is your rank and how long have you been judging?
Yes, I recently took the tasting examination and results are pending.
Do you have a favorite homebrew trick or gadget that you've found to make your beer better/brewing easier, etc?
Having a split-system temperature controller has made the biggest improvement to my brewing.
Describe your brew system.
Three vessel, two-tier, all grain with the capacity for 10-gallon batches, but I usually brew five gallons at a time. My boil kettle is a stock pot, mash tun is a converted round cooler and boil kettle is a cut-down keg—all put together by Michael Honey, the handiest West Coast Brewers club member.
How frequently do you brew (times per month or year)?
About 15 times per year.
What is your favorite malt? Why?
Maris Otter. I love that biscuity English malt flavor.
What is your favorite hop? Why?
Really depends on my mood. I’ll be patriotic and say Galaxy. It’s a real fruit salad of a hop.
What is your dream food and beer pairing?
Cantillon Gueze with stinky French cheese—truly amazing.
Do you have a favorite or house yeast? What qualities do you like about that yeast?
Wyeast 1056 American Ale because of its reliability and versatility.
Do you belong to a homebrew club?
West Coast Brewers. We have a club barrel project in the works—a large batch of Belgian Golden Strong Ale aged in a sweet white wine barrel.
What is a beer style that is underappreciated and/or could take off given the opportunity and exposure?
Berliner Weisse, it’s probably the most refreshing beer style, low in alcohol and high in flavor, perfect for hot weather drinking.
Have you found other people interested in homebrewing in your country?
Plenty. I don’t think it’s quite as popular a hobby as it is in America, but there are loads of enthusiastic Aussie homebrewers.
Are there any challenges/difficulties with brewing outside the USA? (Ingredients, laws, customs, etc?)
I only started brewing in 2008, and quality ingredients have always been readily available. I know it was lot harder for homebrewers in the 90s and earlier.
Is there any advice you would like to give to new homebrewers?
Don’t rush into all-grain brewing before you are ready and already have sound brewing practices. Some of the best beers I’ve made have been made with extract.