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.
We have been brewing together for the last three years.
Colin O'Connell: I started brewing when I was about 19 living here in Ottawa. I was making kits of beer and didn't really know what I was doing. There was no internet to tell you all the answers, so I read books and did the best I could. I would buy random hops and throw them in because I liked the name of them.
Julie St. Amour: When we moved out to Vancouver Colin brewed with a group of friends, I didn't get involved at the time because I was pregnant, but It really interested me. Colin got his brother Derek and I involved in brewing when we moved back to Ottawa. For me and Colin it's all we talk about. Most couples have pillow talk, we talk about what beer we are going to be making tomorrow and if we have enough propane or what type of malt we can use as a substitution.
Derek O'Connell: YOU DID!… I was buying cheap beer for a big price, and I could
be making good beer for a cheap price. and besides, its fun.
What got you interested in making your own beer?
It was easy to convince us to make beer. The crappy tasting stuff was expensive and being able to brew something of good quality and good price was very appealing. Colin wanted to brew Irish reds and stouts, I wanted to make delicious chocolate porters. Buying beer like that at the liquor store has a bigger price tag. We decided to go straight into all grain because we liked being able to have complete control of what we put into the beer.
Colin and I really like making up recipes and Derek keeps us all on track – we're a great team!
Can you tell us about how you home brew (your set up)? How large are your batches?
We make large batches of all grain that are between 10-15 gallons. We have a 19 gallon OBK pot with a Kab6 banjo burner (kick ass burner). We brew on the back deck all year round on propane – it has its challenges, but we like it.
Our mash tuns are two buckets with spigots and copper manifolds. It's cheap, easy and has surprisingly good heat retention.
We also do smaller 5 gallon batches on the stove using 2 pots and one of the mash tuns. All of our brewing is done with the fly sparge method.
We have a two tap kegerator system using a Danby fridge converted to fit two kegs.
What's your favorite beer you've made so far?
We don't normally make the same beer twice, but we sometimes go back and revisit a recipe to change it up a bit.
Colin: Our Citra Amarillo AIPA was really good.
Derek: Our pumpkin ale we made the first year was really good, the second year it was a bit over spiced.
Julie: I loved the Vanilla porter we made. It was only a 5 gallon batch so I want to make it again and scale it up.
Colin: The Cherry Chocolate porter was really amazing. It had a lot of cherries in it. I think that was my favorite.
We pretty much all agreed on the chocolate cherry porter being the favourite.
What's the best advice you can give to new home brewers?
Colin: Brew with friends and convince your wife that its a good idea to brew all the time.
Julie: Make sure everything is clean and take good notes on what you did. A great book is "How to Brew" by John Palmer. Brew a lot and get to know your system.
Derek: Mistakes aren't always a bad thing, Sometimes a really great beer comes from frustrating experiences.