When did you start brewing? What got you brewing? I got started when my then boyfriend, now husband, was given a homebrew kit from his brother about seven years ago. We started brewing immediately and just had a blast. I really have to give him all the credit for getting me into beer.
When did you know this was no ordinary hobby—that it was an obsession? I started to get really into homebrewing about four years ago. I just adore the creative aspect of designing beer recipes, because there are endless possibilities. I love to cook, so it was a natural thing for me. I started my blog, LoveBeerLoveFood.com, a little over a year ago because I needed a place to share about my love of all things beer and food. I just became a Certified Cicerone® and the president of the Ohio Chapter of Girls Pint Out, a beer advocacy group for women. So yeah, I’m definitely obsessed.
What is your “white whale” beer (the beer you’d hunt to the ends of the earth for, and possibly die trying to obtain)? I’m not sure I really have one, but I’m always on the hunt for new and interesting beers. One beer that I love and miss since I moved to the Midwest is Allagash White. I miss all Allagash beers really, just such good quality.
What are your favorite craft breweries? There are so many! I love to try new beers. Locally here in Cincinnati, I love Blank Slate Brewing Company and MadTree Brewing. I also love Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project in my home state of Massachusetts.
Do you have a homebrewing disaster you’d like to share? This is so embarrassing. When we went to bottle our second batch of beer ever, we completely forgot to add the sugar or DME that would carbonate the beer. We realized the next day and had to dump all the beers out and re-bottle them. Despite all the potential for oxidation the beer actually ended up pretty good. We were really lucky.
Do you have a special homebrew related project that you’d like to share? We’ve actually started getting really into ciders and cider hybrids lately. We’ve been tinkering with all different yeasts (beer vs. wine), back sweetening, dry hopping and even making blends with beer wort. Saison is one of my favorite styles and we recently did a saison/cider hybrid we’re calling “Saider.”
What is your favorite style(s) to brew? I have too many favorites to choose, but I really like brewing Belgian styles and fruit beers. It’s always exciting to use non-traditional ingredients. We recently made a beer with prickly pear cactus fruit in a summer wheat. It tasted like nothing I have had commercially. That really is the beauty of homebrew, you can literally make beer that no one has ever tried before. Experimentation is the best part.
What style(s) will you never brew? We’ve never brewed a lager. That’s not to say that we would never do it, but I can’t imagine brewing, for example, a bock style beer. I’m not really into malty lagers.
What was the first beer you ever brewed? How did it turn out? The first recipe I ever put together and brewed by myself was an imperial amber. It turned out well! Just a hint of sweetness, balanced but not overpowering hop bitterness. Pretty good for a first go.
What is your favorite recipe based off of a commercial style? We’ve brewed a recipe off of Troeg’s Nugget Nectar, which is such a stellar beer. Our version came out great, pretty close to the original.
Are you a BJCP Judge? If so, what is your rank and how long have you been judging? No, but I just received my Cicerone certification and I’m thinking I’ll work on BJCP soon. I’ll be judging my first-ever competition this January for the Moerlein Cup. I’m really excited about it!
Do you have a favorite homebrew trick or gadget that you’ve found to make your beer better/brewing easier, etc? We have a sparge arm and a pump now which makes lautering so much easier. We’ve really increased our efficiency that way.
Describe your brew system. We have a 16-gallon Bayou Classics kettle with spigget, a 10-gallon Home Depot igloo style cooler turned mash tun, a pump and sparge arm, plus a big outdoor Bayou Classic burner. We always do our primary fermentation in plastic then transfer to glass carboys for secondary. We keg most of our beers these days, unless they’re special beers we want to age, like our pumpkin barley wine.
How frequently do you brew (times per month or year)? I probably brew about once or twice a month these days. More during the summer and fall to make use of our new toy, a fruit press.
What is your favorite malt? Why? We’ve used torrified wheat a lot in our saisons and hefeweizens and that has been awesome. I love the flavor that wheat adds and the torrified wheat doesn’t gum up your mash tun.
What is your favorite hop? Why? I really love nugget. It’s such a versatile hop, great for bittering, flavor and aroma. We even planted a nugget hop rhizome two years ago when we started growing hops. It hasn’t produced anything yet, but hopefully this summer we’ll have fresh nugget hops in our own backyard.
What is your dream beer and food pairing? I hosted a beer and food dinner at my home a few months ago—a friend of ours who happens to be an amazing chef made this chocolate dessert with raspberry puree and caramel. I paired it with Pretty Things Baby Tree, a Belgian “Quad.” It was out of this world. I still think about it and drool.
Do you have a favorite or house yeast? What qualities do you like about that yeast? We use a lot of Wyeast 1056, but I’ve recently liked their French Saison yeast (3711). It is such a work horse and makes a really nice, dry beer, which I love.
Is there any advice you would like to give to new homebrewers? Brewing can seem really overwhelming at first. I found starting with a recipe in a homebrew book, then tweaking a little to suit my taste really helped. I’d recommend reading Brewing Classic Styles by Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer, and Randy Mosher’s Radical Brewing. Teaming up with an experienced brewer is a great way to start too. Brewing with friends is the best. Otherwise, just have fun with it! You really do learn as you go, it’s part of the fun.