Friday, August 13, 2010

Homebrewer of the Week

Tis Friday, so it must be time for the Homebrewer of the Week mini-series. Therefore, without further ado.....

Name: Matthew Herrera

How did you get into home brewing?

Well I’ve always loved beer good beer and loved to try new styles whenever I got the chance. One year for Christmas my wife bought me a Mr. Beer kit which I used to make my first pale ale. My wife said “you’re always looking for a good beer maybe you should try making your own?” I was thrilled at the idea and the new kit! Being the technical person that I am I quickly realized that this Mr. Beer kit was novice at best. After more research I soon moved on to a bucket and carboy set up doing extracts and have since fell in love with the hobby, It has to be one of the most satisfying hobbies I have ever done!

Are you an all grain brewer or extract with grains?

I do mainly all grain brewing now although I have done a few extracts since moving to all grain. I find I just get a much better beer with all grain, I like the flexibility I have with the malts and mashing temps and I can really fine tune my wort. Also I like knowing that I made my beer from scratch if there is an off flavor I can’t blame it on the extract I have to recount my steps examine my process and find out what went wrong and where. I enjoy that part of it though it sounds silly but each mistake I make I learn from and feel it really makes me a better brewer.

What is the best beer you have ever brewed and why?

Funny I always think the best beer I’ve ever brewed is going to be the one in the carboy and as soon as I taste it will say Eureka! Honestly I have made a few beers that I simply would rather pour down the drain. To date I would have to say the best beer I ever made was a Chocolate Vanilla Porter, it was based on a Deschutes black Butte clone but I tweaked it and it was outstanding. It had a great chocolate and vanilla flavor with some nice earthy notes like you find in a black butte, it was well attenuated but still had great body not cloying but more creamy or silky on the pallet. The aroma was smooth like fresh vanilla, I think the stars aligned when I brewed this batch and the tide was just right! Actually I think it turned out so good because I was painstakingly diligent about my sanitation, and following my process. I hit the right mash temps held them for the right amount of time added the right amount of hops used a good yeast starter with aeration and held the proper fermentation temps (critical). I think my experience shined through on this batch with everything I learned.

What is the worst, and why?

The worst beer I ever made by far was a peach ale. It had a horrible medicinal phenolic flavor, I never figured out if this was due to my yeast or the peaches I added but the peaches were canned so I am leaning towards the yeast. I used saf ale 05 and I think my fermentation temp was too high. I have heard of others getting this same spicy medicinal taste with this yeast so Im pretty sure that’s what caused it. Also I may have under pitched stressing the yeast and contributing to extra phenols. I think the beer would have turned out great if I used different yeast and had my temps and pitching rate correct.

What is your favorite beer that you brew?

Honestly I have never made any beer twice there are just so many styles to make and beers to try there is just not enough time in the day. I have found that my pallet changes almost seasonally, sometimes I just go through these periods where I want pale ales, then I just want lagers, or IPA’s. I try to drink a variety but my favorite style is always changing. Lately I’ve really been enjoying ESB’s and German and Bohemian Lager’s.

Do you have any plans or ambitions to turn your hobby into your career?

Isn’t that every brewers dream! I think the day I brewed my first pale ale I was already dreaming of a microbrewery. Actually I have taken some semi serious steps in the direction of “Nano Brewer” you can look it up on the ABC website it’s a legal brewery on a nano scale there are already a few here in California. I was researching it, calling the alcohol board, calling supply companies pricing equipment and even came up with a name and found a partner. It’s something I still want to do but has been put on hold for a little bit as I figure out some personal issues in my life. I already have some of the equipment I need and am hoping that by end of 2011 I will be rolling. I plan on starting with one barrel batches and selling locally to pubs and restaurants from there I will see where it leads. I would like one day to have a 60,000 barrel a year brewery…..One day.

Of the beers you brew, which is your favorite to drink?

Of the beers I’ve brewed my favorite ones to drink are the ones that turn out good! It really depends on the season and the mood. I can’t say there is one beer that I have as a favorite, if it tastes good I like to drink it! In general I like my beers to be clear and clean tasting. That is one reason I like to rack to a secondary, it really helps clear the yeast and leaves the trub behind. My current brew is a bohemian lager, I used an interesting technique to clear it. First I crashed it down to about 44 before adding yeast or aerating, after 3 days I racked to a secondary leaving all the trub behind, I then aerated the wort and added the yeast. Over the next 3 days I raised the temp to 50 and held it there for fermentation. I tasted the beer before kegging and wow! This beer is brilliantly clear and clean tasting, I think it’s my best beer yet!

How do you decide on the kind of beer to brew and formulate the recipe?

Well with the abundance of free recipes on the internet these days it isn’t too hard to find a good one. Whether you use websites, books, forums or try to make your own there is plenty of info out there. I think having a good understanding of a style is important before venturing off into uncharted territory. I typically will take a recipe and slightly tweak it to my own. In the past I’ve used beer smith to help formulate recipes as well as a website called the brew masters warehouse, but most recently I downloaded an application for my I-touch called brew pal and it was only $1.00! I really love this app it is almost as full featured as beer smith with the convenience of being able to carry it in my pocket and follow a brew plan step by step. I also like that you can just go crazy and make up an off the wall recipe and it will find the closest BJCP category that your recipe falls into. I guess I decide on a beer I want to make depending on the mood I am in. Sometimes if I’ve tried a particular beer that caught my attention I will try to make something in that style. I’ve also planned ahead on the season and have brewed darker beer in the winter and lighter beers in the summer.

What is the most unusual beer you have brewed?

The most unusual beer I have brewed has to be my lemon honey ale. I used real lemons and real honey, I thought it would be a great session beer or lawnmower beer on those hot sunny days. I wanted it to be thirst quenching and easy drinking. Well I added to much lemon and not enough honey it tasted like lemonade beer! I still think it could be a great beer but I would add less lemon and more honey next time, or maybe just use honey malt. I may retry this one again soon.

If you could do a pro-am brew, what would you brew and with which brewery?

I think it would have to be an IPA. I have tasted so many IPA’s and they really range in character. I have tasted some that are too cloying, some that are so bitter it taste like drinking hop squeezing. I have tasted some with great aroma but not enough bitterness, and I have tasted some that hit it right on with a perfect balance. To me an IPA has to have good balance, I think too many times brewers try to cover up mistakes by adding more hops and it still doesn’t taste right. I think the perfect IPA is clean and crisp with not too much malt character and a bouquet of floral aroma with just the right amount of IBU’s. I would have to choose stone brewing Co. to do an IPA. They in my opinion have a great IPA, also IPA’s have a pretty simple malt bill which would make it easier to hit my gravity and %ABV on target. They ferment out relatively fast and if you stay in the 6 to 7 % ABV they do not take very long to mature. Every brewery should have a great IPA as a staple brew, at least in the USA. Even though IPA’s were first made in England for India I think the US really took off with the style and made it what it is today.

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