I began homebrewing in January of 1996. My first experience with homebrewed beer was in 1969. It had been fermented using bread yeast. It was awful. I swore I would never let another homebrew touch my lips. Then at Christmas in 1995 my brother-in-law brought over a beer he had homebrewed using an extract kit. I really didn’t want to taste it, but decided I would take a small sip, and then discreetly find a place to pour out the rest of the glass. To my total surprise, the homebrew was excellent! It turned out to be my brother-in-law’s first and last homebrew (too much work). But it started my homebrewing journey that 25 years later has resulted in over 440 batches – 414 of them all-grain.
I brew with an outdoor 10 gallon stainless steel all-grain gravity based system. See my profile image. 15 gal Hot Liquor Tank, 10 gallon Polarware insulated mash tun, 20 gallon boiler and 2 Blichmann SS low pressure 72K BTU burners. My brewing storage cabinet/brewing platform is from Home Depot. I built the table that the boiler sits on and a step-up base for the HLT. The storage cabinet remains outdoors with the burners, boiler, HLT, and HLT table stored inside. The copper counter-flow chiller and mash tun are stored indoors. Note the stairs that run up next to the brewing platform. No ladders!
I do a variety of step infusion (using hot water step-ups) and decoction mashes. For sour beers I frequently use a kettle souring routine. I have a chest freezer with a Johnson Controls temperature controller to ferment lager style beers. I built a styrofoam box with a heating pad in the bottom to warm ferment sour beers. I barrel-age beers in a medium toasted 10 gallon oak barrel that was originally used to ferment rye whiskey. I serve using Cornelius kegs and a 3 tap Kegland kegerator.
My favorite styles include Bohemian Lagers, Bavarian Helles, Maerzen/Vienna/Oktoberfest, Dunkels, Steam Beer, German Altbier and Kolsch ales, English bitters and IPAs, Scottish Ales and free-style American ales. I have recently been experimenting with Belgian and sour ales.
I prefer whole hops. I rarely use high alpha hops – rarely over 10% Alpha Acid. My favorite bittering hops are Perle, Northern Brewer, and Nugget. My favorite flavor/aroma hops are Mittlefruh, Saaz, Sterling, Hallertau, Mt. Hood, Tettnanger, Santiam, and Spalt for lagers and German ales. For English and American Ales I like Goldings, Fuggles, Williamette, Brewer’s Gold and Cascades. I home grow Nugget, Sterling, Willamette, Mt. Hood and Crystal hops. Other hops are mostly purchased from Puterbaugh Farms (Hops Direct) in Mabton, Washington.
My favorite base malts are Belgian or German/Bohemian Pils, Maris Otter, Vienna, Munich, and plain old American/Canadian 2-row. I like Melanoidin, Aromatic, and Honey malt to richen the flavors and add a reddish hue. My favorite crystals are Caravienne, Caramunich, Carafoam, British crystals up to about 60L, and Special B. I use carafa or chocolate malts for dark beers. I add Carafoam, Naked Oats, and flaked oats, wheat, barley to ales for more body/foam.