Robert Sherrill, one of our customers, shares his experience homebrewing, supplying one of his recipes and general advice for all-grain brewing. Enjoy! What initially sparked your interest in home brewing and how did the hobby develop over time? I ran across this article in August about the White House home brew recipe petition. Before that, home brewing was always something that I was hoping to take up one day, but never had the time to learn (but if the President can find time to pick up this new hobby, I have no excuse). We walked into Bitter & Esters without a clue. I couldn’t even tell you what a hop was. We walked out with a kit and the ingredients for Kev’s Rugged Good Looks Irish Red. After consuming several home brewing videos on YouTube and a few drinks for courage, we brewed our first beer, hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. A little more than month later, we were able to taste the fruits of our labor. The beer was delicious. We were hooked. A few weeks later the White House released their recipes for the Honey Ale and the Honey Porter and wouldn't you know it, there was just enough time to get a batch brewed, fermented, and bottle conditioned in time for election night. With a few more recipes under my belt, I took a stab at partial mashing before moving to all-grain brewing. 2. What is your brewing system and process for making beer like? I love to cook food. Every good cook knows that cooking from scratch using whole ingredients is the best way to ensure control over the final product, so it was no surprise that I switched to all-grain brewing. I did the simple DIY conversion on a 10-gallon igloo cooler to make it a mash/lauter tun and have not looked back. I usually have two active fermenters generally a week a part in the process. My average output varies, but I generally brew 3 5-gallon batches a month, which outputs 180 gallons a year. I use an 8 gallon aluminum brew pot for the mash water, my mash/lauter tun, and a 5 gallon aluminum pot for sparging. I fly sparge using 180-degree water (keeping the water level just above the grain bed while I lauter into the 8 gallon brew pot). I set my tun on a dining room chair and syphon slowly to the 8 gallon pot on my kitchen floor until I have collected around 6.5 gallons of wort. All-grain seems difficult to learn, but really, it was as simple as adding a few extra steps to brewing day -- allotting for more time (due to the mash cycle), monitoring and accurately recording temperature, and taking accurate readings of your original and final gravity. All the other steps remain the same as extract brewing, except you’re boiling with a larger volume of wort. I began to creating my own recipes almost from the start. I suggest investing in a computer program. I brew using iBrewmaster for the iPad. I hear great things about Beersmith, but I’m a Mac user and Beersmith felt too much like a PC program. The biggest benefit of these programs is that the math is done for you. As long as you’re adjusting your actual AA% and your gravity readings, the other work is done by what I can only assume are tiny robots. The iBrewmaster also has the BJCP Style in the program and will let you know if the beer is being brewed to a particular style. Pictures of Robert's setup: [wpsgallery] 3. What do you do best as a brewer? I’m pretty clever with titles. As an example my buddy Aaron Lehmann will enjoy a Rye Mocha Milk Stout called “Lehmann’s Terms” on his 35th birthday. He grew up in upstate New York watching Canadian television. We initially bonded over our shared love for a few of the same Canadian bands. I added the rye in the recipe specifically because it came from Canada. He also tends to like more hoppy beers, but his favorite beer at the moment is Left Hand’s Milk Stout Nitro. The only draw back for him is that it’s a touch too sweet. So I countered the lactose with chocolate malt, adding a full pound to give it some bite. I also added more hops than are generally found in a sweet stout. I specifically didn’t add anything to the beer for head retention, like Carapils or wheat, so that he could continue to “pour hard” as Left Hand suggests (there’s a youtube video and everything about how to pour the beer). Aaron is a really gifted musician who used to play in an Irish Folk Band, so naturally WYeast’s Irish Ale yeast. I get so much joy out of the planning process that I keep a brewing calendar with potential titles. I’m thinking about an Imperial something or other called “Adulthood”, a song by my favorite band Jukebox The Ghost. And, sometime during the summer, be on the look out for a beer called “The Greatest Thing Since Before Sliced Bread”. 4. What do you feel your biggest challenge is as a brewer? I don’t know what I don’t know. Also, none of the beers that I’ve designed have been awful, though some have been so-so. Algebra has never been my thing, so I’m really thankful that programs exist that do it for me. I’m pretty terrible at pronouncing words specific to brewing. I still have to correct myself when pronouncing wil-LAM-et. 5. Where do you feel that you have the ability to improve most as a brewer? I need to become way more consistent with my mash efficiency. Now that I have a digital thermometer that measures within one-tenth of a degree, I think my brews will become more consistent from batch to batch. I also need to get my sea legs on other styles. Right now I brew stouts, IPAs, American amber ales and American pale ales. I might eventually get into brewing sour beer. I do question if I have the patience to wait a year for it to condition. Ultimately, I need more knowledge about beer in general. 6. What's the oddest/funniest/best/worst thing that ever happened to you while brewing? My brews have been pretty incident free so far. I work a lot, often going weeks without time off. Brewing allows me to disconnect from the office and concentrate on something wholly unrelated to the performing arts. Tending to a giant pot allows me time to myself that I desperately need. There’s nothing like tasting a successfully executed beer of your own design. Seriously, nothing like it. The first time I cracked open a bottle of “Jesus” and poured it into a glass and got the aroma of ripe pineapple with cotton candy and bright citrus, I got chills. It was exactly what I was going for. That was probably my favorite day as a brewer. 7. How does your work & living conditions affect recipe choice & brewing style? My husband and I live in Crown Heights. I am the General Manager for a downtown theater company in the city. Theater people like to drink. Some say that like the Egyptians building the pyramids, theater people can be paid in beer. I tend to brew to give away. So, from toasting with the White House Honey Porter on the stage on the night of the election to mixing my home brew in with the craft brew selection for the Holiday party (I get to choose the alcohol for the parties), my company members and co-workers have been privy to my triumphs and my failures. I appreciate that they’re willing to try anything I bring in and offer feedback. 8. Do you have a favorite beer style to drink/brew? I’m an IPA fan. I wasn’t when I started brewing, but that quickly changed. When we selected that first recipe, we were asked “what kind of beer do you like?” and to be honest, I had no clue. Brewing has expanded my palate. I’m looking forward to tasting more styles and continually learning more. I’m also a big fan of American Amber Ales, which I value because of their balance and flavor. 9. Tell us about the recipe you're sharing. This is an all-grain recipe for an IPA called “Jesus Hops The ‘A’ Train”. I developed this recipe by evaluating commercial IPAs and searching the web for clone recipes. Once I gathered 15 beers, I entered the recipes into an excel spreadsheet and sorted by common ingredients. When possible, I tasted these commercial examples next to one another and made guesses. For example, “This note of caramel that I’m getting in one beer is shared in this beer, so maybe it’s the Caramel 60L that they both share.” One thing that I kept in mind throughout the recipe building process was that I wanted the beer to appeal to the widest range of palates. I experimented and recently added a first wort hopping to the recipe. In the online research that I did, I learned that first wort hopping gave a more complex and less bitter hop flavor to the beer, so I recently added that step. One of my favorite beers is Dogfish Head’s 90-minute IPA. As an homage, I made this a 90 minute boil, which I think added to the complexity of the hop profile. But I wanted this to become the beer that we serve at our company parties at work (and it is now) and tailored it to be complex but could also appeal to the widest range of palates. I aimed to make the hop profile more flavor and aroma forward than bitter, hence the first wort hopping to give a milder flavor, but still be hop-forward. Even with a 90-minute bowl I chose hops based on relatively low alpha acidity and smaller quantities so that I wouldn’t brew a hop bomb that hits you over the head with bitter. Though I do love me some hop bombs. The name is a take on the title of a play by Stephen Adly Guirgis called “Jesus Hopped The ‘A’ Train”, which was originally produced by the theater company where I work. Mostly though, I got lucky. I hope you do too. And I’d love to know what you think. Here’s the recipe: JESUS HOPS THE “A” TRAIN GRAIN BILL 11 lbs Briess 2-Row Brewers Malt .50 lb Caramel 40L .50 lb Caramel 80L 1 lb Munich Malt 10L .50 lb Briess Carapils HOPS & ADDITIONS .50 Simcoe Pellets (13.20%AA) - First Wort Hop .50 oz Simcoe Pellets (13.20%AA) – 90 mins 1 oz Williamette Pellets (4.70% AA) – 60 mins .50 oz Simcoe Pellets (13.20%AA) – 30 mins 1 tsp Irish Moss – 15 mins 1 oz Cascade Pellets (5.5%AA) – 10 mins 1.20 oz Willamette Dry Leaf – 7 days YEAST Wyeast Labs 1056 – American Ale MASH PROFILE Mash in at 167.4F to get to the target temperature of 152F and let it rest covered for 90 minutes occasionally checking temperature and adjusting if necessary. Fly Sparge at 180F. Let it ferment for 7 days before racking it to a secondary fermenter. Add a sanitized muslin bag of your dry hops and let it continue to ferment and dry hop for another 7 days. After 7 days, add 4 oz of corn sugar (add to two cups of boiling water for 15 minutes and then cool to room temperature) to your bottling bucket. Rack your beer and bottle. Wait two weeks, refrigerate, enjoy! Alternately, I have a 2.5 gallon keg that fits perfectly in my fridge. I rack half of the beer to the keg (no corn sugar) pressurize the keg and bottle the other half of the batch. The great thing about having the kegging system is that it has cut down the time it takes to taste the product and make adjustments as it only takes about a day for the keg to do its magic and miraculously I have beer in 2 weeks instead of 4+. 10. Is there anything else you'd like to share about Home brewing or your recipe? If you try this recipe and you want to make adjustments to suit your own tastes, go for it. That’s what home brewing is all about. And if you do brew this, save me a bottle. I would love to taste it!