FEATURE: Interview with Homebrewer Marc Plante

Homebrewer Marc Plante
Saturday, November 2nd is the 14th annual Learn to Homebrew Day, spearheaded by the American Homebrewers Association (AHA). This global event was established to encourage people  to learn how to brew from fellow homebrewers.

There are more than 80 events taking place at breweries, homebrew shops and garages across the world. Not far from Ottawa, the Cornwall HomeBrew Club is taking over a local restaurant and have invited speakers from the industry to talk about homebrewing.

To get a glimpse into the world of homebrewing we'll be posting
interviews with Ottawa homebrewers all week leading up to November 2nd –
and maybe they'll encourage you to brew your own beer!

Ottawa Beer Events: Tell
us a little about yourself and how long you've been home brewing.

I am a married father of two, born in
Ottawa and raised in Orleans. I’ve been a home brewer for almost a year. I work
as a communications specialist at Canadian Blood Services and I’ve been a
volunteer ski patrol for over nine years. These things are important to note
because it all ties in to my love of beer.

What
got you interested in making your own beer?

Beer, blog, and baseball.

I’ve always loved beer, and the older I
got, the more adventurous I became. First it started with buying the most
obscure beer to bring to a house party. When everyone was drinking Bud, I’d be
the guy with Brador or Laurentide. That way, I always knew if someone was
drinking my beer.

The selections at the Beer Store or LCBO were extremely limited up to only six
or seven years ago. But I always made it a point to try something different,
and particularly something that was local to the area I was in, whether
visiting in Toronto, Calgary, or here in Ottawa. Big Rock beers were my go-to
beverages when I lived in Lake Louise. There wasn’t much here in Ottawa when I
moved back in the late ‘90s.

I had a blog and used it primarily for
communicating to my family while I was volunteering at the 2010 Vancouver
Games. When I turned 40 I wanted to do something fun and something I was
passionate about. So I tried 40 different beers – one a day, for 40 days and
blogged about them. You can check it out at destined4failure.blogspot.com.

My son played baseball last summer, and at
the end of the year party, one of the coaches (Andy Lalonde, a fellow home
brewer and mentor) brought a keg of home brew. I was amazed by how good it was,
and as I was always interested in making beer but didn’t really know where or
how to start, I peppered him with questions all afternoon. I said I’d love to
come by on a brew day and he said sure. A few months passed and I thought I’d send
him an email, not expecting a reply. Sure enough, he was planning a brew on the
Friday and invited me out.

I ended up going to his garage every Friday night for the next month – learning
the techniques, asking A LOT of questions, soaking it all in. I was the Jesse
Pinkman to his Walter White!

Over the winter, I started
collecting, building, buying the necessary pieces I would need to brew all-grain
in the spring. So in November I built my keezer, then I brewed my first extract
amber ale, then a few Festa brew kits to get me used to the practice of
sanitizing, pitching yeast, dry-hop techniques, and just get comfortable with
the process of kegging beer.

By June, I brewed my first Brew In A Bag
(BIAB) at Big Strange Brew in Merrickville. The end product tasted pretty
crappy, but it was my first all-grain attempt and I was MAKING BEER! Since
then, I’ve brewed about 10 batches over the summer and fall, with more lined up
to get me through the cold months. I’m a relative newbie and I’m learning
something new all the time, but there’s a pretty steep learning curve to making
your own beer.

Can
you tell us about how you home brew (your set up)? How large are your batches?

Right now I’m pretty happy with my current
set-up. I use a Cereal Killer grain mill that I’ve motorized with an old
furnace motor, two 50L keggles for my mash tun and HLT, a GreatBreweh pump to
move everything around, two propane burners, a 20 plate DudaDiesel chiller; all
mounted on a mini-scaffold from Princess Auto. On average I brew 5-6 gallon
batches, and so far I’ve never brewed the same beer twice. I don’t bottle
condition – I force carbonate and keg everything. Draft beer is really the only
way to go.

What's
your favourite beer you've made so far?

My favourite so far is my McFadden’s RockdALE
– I named it after my friend Terry McFadden, who cut the tops off my kegs for
me so that I could use them as keggles. He lives on Rockdale Rd, so I didn’t
have to work too hard to come up with a pretty cool name. It was also the first
beer I’ve ever submitted to a competition. It didn’t win anything, but the
intent was really to get feedback so that I can become a better brewer.

My close second would have to be a Sierra
Nevada Pale Ale clone. The only problem with that one is that I didn’t make
enough of it 😉

My philosophy is “I’ve never met I beer I
didn’t like – I just like some more than others.”

What's
the best advice you can give to new home brewers?

Sit in with someone who home brews. In
fact, sit in with several types of brewers, because everyone does it a different way. Then, build a system that suits your
style. Whether you use a DIY system that costs $500 or a commercial $5000
system, you can still produce some excellent beer.

You can follow Learn to Homebrew Day activities on Twitter as they unfold using (#LTHD2013) or on Facebook (American Homebrewers Assocation).

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