Lonnie Mac (McAllister) here...
Brewing since 99'When did you know this was no ordinary hobby, it was an obsession?What got you brewing?
Well this is a good question. Everyone knows that die-hard Virgos do not have hobbies; we go straight for the obsession part. Predominately I was never a beer drinker. Tea... Lot's of southern sweet tea. Over a gallon a day for these some-odd 47 years. One day about 12 years ago I just so happened to be sitting in Fredericksburg Brewery in Fredericksburg, Texas. For some reason I had ordered up me a nice Porter (whatever that was I thought) to go with my meat tips and rice. Of course over my career in the military I have slugged a BMC or two so I am not oblivious to good beer, but this particular beer captured everything I had wanted in this elusive thing I thought beer was... As soon as I returned from my vacation I studied every inch of the internet, I got online and ordered a starter beer bucket kit from MoreBeer. I then wrote to Mr. Wizard about this Fredericksburg Porter I had, and surprisingly enough, my question was published along with the recipe from Rick in the very next month's issue of BYO magazine. What is your "white whale" beer (the beer you'd hunt to the ends of the earth for, and possibly die trying to obtain)?
Simply for me, I have long discovered that I should not have been swooned in the deep swamps of the bayou, but rather a musty barn in Belgium. A fresh Orval, though sometimes available at my local bottle store is for the most part very elusive. Some years back my lips touched this supple glass and I have not looked back. To the end of time I would like to recreate this wonderful spirited beer and I have tried many times to do so. The Belgian brewer mentality suits me very well. On occasion I would wear my Wife's robe, and tell you as one farmer would tell you, if you don't like my stinking beer then get on down the road and have someone else's stinking beer; this is my stinking beer.What is your favorite local craft brewery?
Sadly, we have so few local craft breweries here in Southern Texas. It is a long sorted story I could tell, but suffice to say that locally we have one of the finer breweries around. St Arnold! Grabbing a freshly poured Elissa IPA from the cold tap is very much like milking your first cow; at first you are a little bit cautious and curious, and then you say hey,,, HEAAAYYY...Do you have a homebrewing disaster you'd like to share?
Again, as a Virgo, we don't disclose disasters. But I indeed have had my share. Nothing spectacular actually, like most I have had my share of leaving my kettle valve open while sparging, brewing up 12 hours of two ten gallon separate batches and pitching the wrong yeast into each. When I was first new, I had brewed up a beautiful beer, fermented it, transferred it to secondary at week three, it tasted soooo good... Shortly thereafter, my new Minibrew 8 gallon conical came in the mail! I simply couldn't wait to try it out with something, so I took my well attenuated secondary of beer that was ready for bottling and in my noobness, i literally DUMPED it into the top of my new conical just to try the new conical out... Needless to say, as it was gulping out from the carboy into the top of the conical, it did indeed pick up a tad too much air.What is your favorite style(s) to brew?
Aside from Belgians, there is never a time in Pub Phun that I do not have a Cream Ale on tap. It has become my signature beer. In around 300 batches I have brewed, without checking I can easily say that I have brewed nearly a hundred batches of Cream Ale; practically every other brew session. I love the dang beer but it was not always so... I have come to learn that anyone can brew a Cream Ale. Brewing a damn good Cream Ale is another thing. I found this little beer to be very challenging, but more so, I have learned to brew it rather as a calibration process, a means by which to keep me and my processes in check. Any flaw in your processes shows up like a sore thumb in this little beer, and like brewing other great light beers, if one can keep it clean, and make it right, it is most rewarding, and when you do brew up that behemoth IPA, you can know that you are not hiding process flaws under all that beef, and you can concentrate on what you want your big beers to be.What style(s) will you never brew?
Ha! Amazingly enough, even though the Fredericksburg Porter actually introduced me to beer, shortly after I learned that I couldn't stand dark beers, or rather any beer with roast or chocolate. I should say that occasionally I do brew darker beers for my Wife, but lately, I have forced her to brew her own.What was the first beer you ever brewed? How did it turn out?
Indeed it was the dark Porter(y) beer. I thought for my very first beer it came out fantastic! I lay on the wooden floor every single night and gazed at the primary. I read and re-read my instructions and followed everything to a tee night after night. I got online and asked everything I could possibly ask at the time. After a few weeks in the bottle, I popped one, hiss... It all worked wonderfully. I poured it into two glasses for the Wife and I, plopped a lemon wedge on each glass and watched Survivor.Have you ever had a homebrew mistake that turned out great?
I have since learned that running out of propane mid way into your IPA boil was not a bad thing after all. I have sometimes tried to recreate that incident and that beautiful award winning beer. Boil my wort for about 30 minutes or so, turn it off for about four hours while I pretend to run to three different propane stores on a fourth of July, and finally jumping my neighbors fence and stealing his tank, and then reboil it for the remanning hop additions. Putting the tank back empty was my ploy, but Chris being as astute as he was, always checked for his tank on his patio as soon as he got home every day...What is your favorite recipe based off of a commercial style?
Coming from a man who actually scheduled his first sexual encounter using an Excel spreadsheet, amazingly I have no particular style or recipe that I could base this question on. Maybe I have used this hobby to let my perfections go loose. Sort of a release I think... I have tried to mimic the aforementioned Orval many times, and brewing predominately Belgians, it would be against my wilder side to pinpoint an actual beer as each is so unique. This one has more funk than that one and so on. Are you a BJCP Judge? If so, what is your rank and how long have you been judging?
I am not a certified judge nor have I taken the test. Though I have studied on several occasions and made it through about half of the classes on several occasions more, I have never taken the actual plunge. I have points. I have judged very many comps over the years, head steward of several more. I love the process of competition, I LOVE to compete, and I think I could actually do the job itself, but the actual testing portion not only conveniently eludes me, it actually has always scared the crap out of me at the same time. Testing is not a hobby of mine... Competitions utilize folks like us a lot. Although I realize the short supply of certified judges and the fact that I am not helping that cause, sitting with a truly certified judge and watching them work around an amazing beer is a pleasure on my part. Maybe one day...Do you have a favorite homebrew trick or gadget that you've found to make your beer better/brewing easier, etc?
Ah! I guess I was waiting for this question. It's all I know. Brutus Ten! Over the years of brewing on many cobbled up systems, Brutus Ten was a culmination of just about every gadget that I wanted to incorporate into a brewery for me and the way I brew.Describe your brew system.http://www.alenuts.com/Alenuts/Alenuts.html
Indeed this is the best way I can describe my system. The link above will tell the story rather than hashing it all out here. Most know me as Lonnie Mac across all the internetz; President of the Brutus Ten Cult...How frequently do you brew (times per month or year)?
I have developed a system for me where I can brew two times per month. I brew 11 gallon batches on Brutus. I hit it hard with the proper amount of healthy yeast, do not secondary, and am able to put my beer in the kegs the day before brew day so my fermenter (pot) is back on Brutus ready for me the next brew session to start the process all over again. I transfer my beers and make my water, grind my malt and have everything all set up on every other Saturday. I brew the next batch each following Sunday. I clean up on Mondays!What is your favorite malt? Why?
Though why I can not say really, I am a big fan of Briess Malts (as far as base malt is concerned). Maybe because this malt is readily available and has been for so many years. I have learned to brew "my" beers using this malt as the backbone. Funny enough with my LHBS, I found out today that this malt will no longer be offered at their store! I do not like change. I will give Great Western a go for my session beers. Other malts like Maris Otter and such are always in my rotation depending on the style I am brewing. I am a big fan of mixing my malts between 50/50 two row, and pils. I do this for a lot of beers actually.What is your favorite hop? Why?
They all start with a "C". Why? Because they all start with a "C". Crazy enough though, I am not a big fan if the in-your-face grapefruit and citrus that these C hops offer. In different blends though, I find you get some really nice flavors and aromas. I am a big fan of mash hopping, FWH's, all the way through to dry hopping. Lately I have had great fun playing with the newer hops from our brothers down under.Do you have a favorite or house yeast? What qualities do you like about that yeast?
I can't pretend to answer this question. I am a yeast rancher. I have strains dating back ten years including some original CL-50 from Brewsters Yeast. My main stay is WLP-001 for many of my beers. Recently I have acquired a scope and have inquired on the forum about yeast counting. I am sure this will put me over the top with my new Hemocytometer.Do you belong to a homebrew club? Have a good homebrew club story you'd like to share?
I belong to the Bay Are Mashtronauts. http://mashtronauts.pbworks.com/w/page/20456439/FrontPage
Our club is located in Clear Lake, Texas along side the NASA Johnson Space Center where many of our members work including myself. Being one of the oldest clubs in America, my Wife Moonbeam and I are very proud members. Our little club has at times been one to be reckoned with too. Our most proud times for such a relatively small club overall compared to many others, was to be listed in the top ten homebrew clubs in America a time or two. As a bunch of scientist's and such in our club, we all pride ourselves in our competitions and like to do well. Besides, it's nice to be friends with the likes of Ginger Wotring who wrote the BJCP water portion of the study guide, to John Jurgenson, a famous author and mathematician at NASA.Is there any advice you would like to give to new homebrewers?
Be it any method from plastic buckets with holes drilled in the bottom for a mash tun, all the way to our stainless steel automated system, PROCESS makes beer; NOT equipment. From the annals of time, beer has been process oriented. Fancy equipment may help in that process, but I still long for some of the beers that I made on my old plastic bucket system hanging from the eve of my ricked house. As I compete regularly, there is a fella locally who kicks my butt every year with his extract brews. I would say to concentrate on making beer first. That process will "stick" with you, your equipment will "grow" with your process...What is a beer style that is under appreciated and/or could take off given the opportunity and exposure?
Now this is just me talking, but I have always felt that our lighter styles, though indeed already "took off", are more and more under appreciated as time goes by. It seems that a great Mild Ale or a wonderfully brewed Cream Ale will simply never win a BOS again due to simplicity itself. I am sure when you painted your walls in you home white, after about a year you thought that was pretty boring and then you went all teal like a fool... More and more we push our styles each year, more and more I feel judges are expecting these styles to push limits. APA's are now IPA's so to speak, although the guidelines remain the same. I still have high hopes for a well brewed Cream Ale because it is what it is.What's the most unusual ingredient you've ever used in a brew?
Not unusual per say, once announced at a brew in for my club, I was asked what it was that I was going to brew. I for some reason blurted out ALL WHEAT STOUT! I had no idea what I was saying at the time but I pulled it off on a winter morning outside the Outpost Tavern, a famous Astronaut hang out. I roasted to various degrees several batches of wheat and combined with a 100% wheat base, my Moonbeam and I made a great tasting all wheat stout. It was a challenge, but it was great!Do you have any pets or kids named after beer styles or ingredients?
All of our pets are named after alcohol. Barley is our little dog; our brewing pal! Pinot the bird and Corky the turtle...How many medals have you won from homebrew competitions?
We have several medals. I include Moonbeam as she has always been right there every brew day, and indeed she has held her own in wine competitions! A BOS or two here or there, and an AHA gold at Nationals...What haven't we asked that you would really like to answer?
Moonbeam and I had a little defunct podcast several years ago. It was fun! I guess we had six or seven shows before we gave it the heave-ho in a blaze of glory with the "Old Time Beer Show".http://www.alenuts.com/podcast/otbs.mp3
It was just simply so much work and the whole premise of the show was to talk about Brutus Ten and then let it go. It turned into a little more than that but honestly, I more enjoy listening to the other beer podcast much more than I liked making my own!On a personal note...
To all the hundreds of fellow Brutus friends that have taken my simple idea of a brewery and built it yourself, I am so very humbled. Every time I come across a picture of a Brutus system online I am set back and amazed. Most have taken my little system and turned it into your own systems. This was my ploy all along my friends; it is your system, not mine!
Brew on brothas...