I’m a Lieutenant in a large metropolitan Fire Department in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. It’s a very rewarding career field that I’ve enjoyed for nearly 30 years. Working a schedule of 24 hours on, and 48 hours off, it has allowed me plenty of time to enjoy the hobby of homebrewing. Like brewing, my job requires the discipline of constantly learning. Just when you think you’ve seen or experienced it all, you are faced with a new problem that you must conquer. Critical thinking, education, and experience helps with achieving a good end result both in firefighting and in brewing. That’s why I seem to gravitate towards the never-ending pursuit of making great beer. One day I’ll be too old to continue to fight fire, but I’ll never be too old to make and enjoy great beer!
What or who got you into homebrewing? When was it?
It was Christmas in 2012, and a fellow firefighter friend of mine received a Mr. Beer homebrewing kit from his wife. My buddy and I enjoyed garage beers at his house fairly regularly, and one day in January of 2013 we brewed up their American Pale Ale kit. Not knowing much about craft beer, we certainly were curious about what the final product would taste like.
Our regular beer menu consisted of Bud Light and the occasional Coors Original. As the homebrew finished, we both tasted it and thought it wasn’t that good and it wasn’t that bad; but one thing it definitely was – fun to make! I sought out the local Homebrew supply store and decided to investigate options to take it to the next level. They sold me the typical starter kit – buckets, carboy, siphon, airlocks, bottle capper, etc. Extract brewing now was the name of my game.
My first beer was a disaster, and I ended up dumping it. My second, not quite so much. I brewed a Scottish Light which tasted pretty good! I decided to turn it into a local homebrew competition and it landed in the BJCP score range at roughly 30. I was disappointed somewhat, but yet I continued to brew sporadically. That same contest came back around the next year and I had a few bottles of the Scottish Light leftover. I decided to turn it in again after aging a year. It yielded a first place in its category and I officially caught the bug.
Upgrading equipment became a regular thing. From full batch boils to temperature-controlled fermentation to the eventual kegging of my beer, I was brewing non-stop. In September of 2015, I entered a Peach Wheat Ale in a contest and won best of show. I guess that’s when I officially got obsessed with the craft. The learning seemed to be never ending, so I developed a plan to transition from extract to all-grain brewing. Today I keep on display the first pot, keggle, and chiller to remind me of where I came from in this endeavor of making great beer.
Can you tell us an interesting story about homebrewing?
If you’re looking for a funny or disastrous story, I have neither. This story revolves around my once hatred for all bitter beers. Sometime in 2015 I decided to brew an India Pale Ale. I figured even though I couldn’t stand the style, to be a well-rounded brewer I would need to have the ability to produce a decent IPA. Having friends that love the style, I was not at a loss of people to critique the results.
It was a recipe I pulled from a reputable website, and I made no modifications to it – a moderately bitter version if I recall correctly. When it finished, I tasted it and thought ‘this ain’t that bad!’ My friends agreed, and I was an official IPA lover. Since then I think I’ve made my goal to try ALL the IPA’s out there! Any time I visit a taproom or brewery, my first go-to style when ordering is that of the hoppy variety. It’s reflective of what I brew most often today.
How is brewing a social thing for you? Do you like brewing with others?
The majority of my brewing is done alone. Not saying I don’t like brewing with others, I just feel like I can focus on implementing a recipe that I’ve put lots of research into, and enjoy the reward of making it come to life. I’d rather make a social event of sharing the end result of that effort. Nothing warms the heart better that seeing your friends and family take a second pull off of the kegerator and tell you they really enjoy the beer. That’s one thing that drives me to continue to enjoy brewing.
There’s a contest my Local Homebrew Club, Cap and Hare, puts on every year called ‘Iron Mash.’ It’s a large gathering of homebrew teams that are handed strange ingredients, tough parameters, or both; and task the teams with developing a recipe on the spot, declaring the style, in 90 minutes. You then brew on-site at a local brewery. After your brew day is over, you take it home to ferment, turn it in a couple of months later, then celebrate at the awards party. It’s my favorite competition to brew in. I have the help of a fellow lover of craft beer, firefighter, and brewer Nolan Rosen. Having that much pressure to develop a recipe in 90 minutes does prove the need to have help. I do enjoy having Nolan brew with me, as our first year we were graced with a 3rd place win on a Pale Ale with Rose Hips and Tajin Season Salt.