Author Topic: Brewer Bio: James Lafferty (not the actor)  (Read 11358 times)

Offline treffal

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Brewer Bio: James Lafferty (not the actor)
« on: May 24, 2012, 04:13:45 PM »
Who Are You (please include a picture): 

I’m James Lafferty, not the actor from One Tree Hill.   I’m a little off kilter.  I consider it a prerequisite for being a brewer.  I have a passion for brewing driven by creativity that motivates me to brew as many styles and unique beers that I can.  I work in the IT industry where I deal with upset customers day after day.  The most satisfying part of brewing for me is watching people enjoy what I have created.   My wife is the only upset customer when it comes to my beer, but she doesn’t like beer, so does she really count?

Last year I compiled my homebrewing story in a video for Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp.  If the website is working, it can be viewed here:

Check here to see what’s going on at the Lafferty Brewery:

I post most of my recipes here:

Home Town (City, State):
Born in Illinois, raised in Florida, spent 6 years in Japan, now living in Jacksonville, NC

Homebrew Club: Beer Alchemists of Coastal Carolina (BAC²)

I've been a homebrewer since: April 17, 2010

Do you have a homebrewing disaster you'd like to share?
I brewed a ginger beer once. I needed keg space, so I filled a gallon growler to the brim with the ginger beer.  I placed it in the closet.  Before bed, I checked it and thought, “Will the CO2 expand and break the bottle as it warms? Nah.”  As I turned off my closet light I heard a loud pop followed by a rushing fizz.  When I turned on the light I saw the growler laying in pieces and ginger beer flowing off of the dresser onto my carpet and into the drawers where I had my clothes stored.   I spent the next 3 hours cleaning the mess and got to bed around 2 am.

What is your favorite style(s) to brew?
I’d have to say American Pale Ales and Light Hybrid Beers, because they’re easy drinking and they’re great for bringing people to craft beer.  I also really like brewing Belgians, because of their unique complexities.  However, I tend to brew what pops into my head, so I don’t get a chance to brew my favorite styles very often.

What style(s) will you never brew?
I will brew any style.  I haven’t brewed a sour yet, but I look forward to diving into that realm.

What was the first beer you ever brewed?  
Brewers Best English Pale Ale Kit.  At first taste, I thought, “I can’t believe I made beer...this is amazing.  Is this how it’s supposed to taste?  Well, I guess I can get used to it.” In reality it was far from what beer should taste like, but my memory of that beer is that it was amazing.  If I tasted that beer today, I would probably dump it.  Here's a pic:

Have you ever had a homebrew mistake that turned out great?
Once I tried a Duvel Clone with recultured Duvel yeast.  It didn’t start fermenting, so I decided to reculture Chimay yeast.  That didn’t work either.  Around 40 hours of my wort sitting, my buddy gave me some White Labs Cali 001 yeast from his primary.  I pitched it and within 3 hours it took off.  After fermentation we were surprised to find out that the two Belgian yeasts contributed quite a unique character to the beer.  I entered it as a specialty beer and a Belgian Tripel and won 1st place in both categories…in the same competition!

What is your favorite beer recipe?
I’m in love with my American IPA, Hop Grenade IPA.  It’s the only beer recipe of mine that I’ve brewed more than twice.

Are you a BJCP Judge? 
No, but I did have the opportunity to Judge American Pale Ales at a BJCP sanctioned event.

Do you have a good beer judging story you'd like to share with the rest of the homebrewing world?
Not really, but I will say this…of the 9 beers that I judged, 3 were drinkable.  Please consult your local skilled homebrewers before wasting your money to find out why your beer tastes horrible.  One tasted and smelled like dish soap, which baffled everyone at the judging table.

Do you have a favorite homebrew trick or gadget that you've found to make your beer better/brewing easier, etc?
No tricks up my sleeve…hard work and education only.  I found that other homebrewers are the best source of knowledge.  They have helped me become a better brewer.

Describe your brew system.
My system is an affordable time waster.  It consists of a cooler for a mash tun, a keggle, a banjo burner, a copper wort chiller, lots of stacked objects, and plenty of gravity.  I ferment in a rusty old fridge with an analog Johnson Control external thermostat or in my closet with wet towels and a fan.

How frequently do you brew (times/month or /year)?
This month I’m preparing to serve beer at a local beer festival, so I’ve pushed the limits of my skills/brewery and brewed 10 gallons once every week.  I’ve brewed around 75 beers that fall within 18 of the 23 BJCP categories.  Regularly, I  brew 1 to 2 times a month.

What is your favorite malt?  Why?
Munich malt.  I like to throw a little in almost every beer I make.  I really enjoy how it enhances the base malt by adding a little more malty sweetness and bready toastiness.

What is your favorite hop? Why?
Simcoe.  It can be used for bittering, flavoring, and aroma.  It’s the key to brewing my Hop Grenade IPA.  My favorite application is dry hopping.  I love it’s piney, grapefruit aroma.  My buddy is in the air freshener business and I’m trying to convince him to make a Simcoe scented air freshener.  Man would that be great!

Do you have a favorite or house yeast? What qualities do you like about that yeast?
Belgifornia Blend.  It’s my own blend of 4 yeasts…Duvel, Chimay, Cali 001, and Trappist High Gravity.  It creates the perfect Belgian character…spicy, fruity, and funky.  If I’m not making a Belgian with that I’m using White Labs Cali 001.  I love it for it’s clean profile, which really brings the character of the ingredients to the forefront of the beer.

Do you have a good homebrew club story you'd like to share?
My buddy Clay brewed a Belgian that soured by accident.  He didn’t like it so he asked if anyone wanted a keg of it.  One of our members took it.  A few months later that member won a gold medal for a Flanders Brown in the US Open in Charlotte, NC.  Everybody congratulated him.  A year went by, and I asked him about his Flanders Brown.  He revealed that he had entered Clay’s beer.  So, we told Clay.  It turns out that if Clay would have decided to enter that beer under his name, he would have placed 3rd in the Carolina Brewer of the Year standings for 2011.  Instead he placed 6th.  This month, that same member won another gold in the same competition.  The best part, nobody got upset and we all had a good laugh.  Just another reason I like homebrewers.

What haven't we asked that you would really like to answer?
What advice would you give to new brewers?  Here are the most important things in brewing…in order…Sanitation, Temperatures, and Ingredients.  Those are encompassed by a solid understanding of the brewing process.  Read How to Brew and The Complete Joy of Homebrewing.  Also, find a good homebrewer and ask him any questions that come up.  I usually offer my email and cell number to new brewers.  I am currently teaching 3 friends how to brew.  My buddy Seth won a gold medal for his English IPA last weekend at the US Open in Charlotte, NC.  It was his first homebrewed beer.  He followed the above advice and had a little help from me with recipe calculation.

If you could serve your homebrew to someone famous, who would it be and what would you give her/him?
I can’t pick just one!  I would have a tasting from my award winning vintage collection for all of the brewers and people who have inspired me.  The following would get an invite.  My buddies, Justin, Tom, Clay, Jason, Dustin, Jeff, Ryan, and Seth.  The guests of honor would be Charlie Papazian, Jamil Zainasheff, Sam Calgione, Jim Koch, and Kevin Kozak.

Can you send a picture or two of some labels you've created for your homebrew?
These are just ideas.  I'm having an artist work on the first two.

What's the most unusual ingredient you've ever used in a brew?
Japanese Kombu (seaweed)…a natural flavor enhancer.  I made a Japanese Green Tea beer and wanted to incorporate as many ingredients from Japan as I could.  It got an Honorable Mention in the Spice Herb and Vegetable Category in a BJCP competition in Ohio.

Do you have any pets or kids named after beer styles or ingredients?
No, but since you asked my daughters do need middle names…Simcoe and Municha have a nice ring to them.

How many medals have you won from homebrew competitions?
After my double gold medal beer, I caught the competition bug and entered every competition that I could find.  I even entered a few beers in a Japanese competiton…and won some silver medals.  I don’t like to admit it, but since you asked, all in all I have won 35 awards.  My two most notable were Best in Show at Front Street Brewery Wilmington, NC for my Black IPA and Best in Show at Lonerider Brewery Raleigh, NC for my Smoked Oatmeal Porter.  Both breweries will be brewing my recipe this month.  The coolest thing is …I get to help!

Do you brew alone, with friends or with someone you live with?
I brew alone, in a hectic race against the clock.  You see, when I brew it can’t interfere with family time, so I have to exploit every 7 hour block of time and utilize it to it’s full extent.

Are you an indoor or outdoor brewer?
Both and at times simultaneously.  Yes, you read correctly simultaneously.

List some of the names you've given your beers. Which is your favorite?
Hop Grenade IPA, Pop’s on Hops, Winter Trailblazer Sweet Potato Ale, Hugh Hefeweizen, Belgifornia Tripel, Czech in the Box Pilsner, Sticky Leg Mild, Laffenbrau Weizenbock, Gunsmoke Oakmeal Porter, Ninja Nectar IPA, Betty Witbier, Jack Lion Irish Red, and Bank Job Brown Ale…to name a few. 

My favorite is Hop Grenade IPA…first off it tastes great.  Second, I had a bottle explode in my closet, which is how it got it’s name.  My closet smelled great for weeks. Lastly, I like the Google results when I search for “Hop Grenade IPA”.
« Last Edit: May 31, 2012, 07:54:12 PM by treffal »