Editors note: Brew Genius, a seasonal weekly feature, profiles some of the homebrewers competing at this years Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Festival, which takes place Jan. 10 to 12 at the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort & Spa. For more information on the event, visit www.bigbeersfestival.com or call High Point Brewing at 524-1092.
Vail Daily: From a style and/or technique standpoint, where did you start? Where are you now?Jim Fixari: I got my first homebrew kit the first week I moved to Colorado in 98. I used extract and brewed on my stove. The beer wasnt bad but realized I didnt have enough control. Today, Im working on putting together a new HERMS system using three converted kegs, electric pump and plate chiller. I can brew 10 gallons of all-grain beer at one time. The beer is much better now and Ive won quite a few awards in the past few years.VD: Do you brew alone or with others? Why?JF: Mainly I brew alone just because I can get started right away, however, through the KROC homebrew club we have brew-ins where we get together at someones house to brew. We have sponsored Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day, Big Brew Day, and weve also brewed together for our annual World Brewers Forum event. I think its great when we can brew together and especially when there are new brewers that stop by to check out whats going on. You learn a lot by being able to watch others. Sometimes you observe what NOT to do.VD: Where do you brew? How many beers do you have cellaring at any given time?JF: I typically brew outside on my patio. Its covered just enough to keep the sun off and my water faucet is very handy. Its also where I keep my grill so many times while Im brewing, Im also cooking. I always have four to five beers (or mead and wine) conditioning in my basement at any given time. Many times I like to make Big Beers so they need extra time to age before I keg or bottle them.VD: Do you brew enough to drink your own beer all year long?JF: I typically have three to five beers on tap at all times. I enjoy my homebrew but also like the variety of commercial beer that is available in my area.VD: Whats your favorite commercially produced beer?JF: This is a tough question with so many great breweries out there but I would have to say that my all time favorite is Westmalle Trappist Dubbel from the Abbey of Westmalle in Malle, Belgium.VD: Whats your ultimate beer/food pairing?JF: I enjoy making ribs and use a little stout in the marinade. After the ribs are cooked and I put them on the grill to finish them up with BBQ sauce, they go great with a nice roasty stout or porter. For dessert Ive made grilled pears with a chocolate-raspberry sauce that went excellent with a bottle of New Glarus Raspberry Tart.VD: What are you entering in the Big Beers Homebrew Competition this January?JF: My main entry is an English Barleywine that is a clone of Thomas Hardy with my secret sauce that I created using chopped dates, brown sugar, and a little Old Nicks Barleywine with some of the 1st runnings of the wort. I collect about 2 cups and boil it down to about 1/2 cup and add it back to the last 20 minutes of the boil. Im calling it Hammer and Nail Barleywine because youll need something to hold you up if you drink too much of it.VD: Whats your favorite beer quote or motto?JF: My favorite motto is If one ounce of hops is good, two must be even better.VD: Why is beer wonderful?JF: Beer is wonderful because it is so versatile. You can cook with it, as it makes awesome marinades; it smells great while you are brewing it; you can share it with your friends; and its fun putting together the recipes and creating something new and different. You can even add spices, fruits, and blend beers together. Its a true art to be able to control the process and put your own spin on a beverage that has been around for so many years.VD: If you couldnt drink beer, what would you drink?JF: Ive recently started to make mead, which is honey wine. This is a great beverage and is easy to make. You just have to have patience as it can take up to a year for it to be ready. Two years ago I made a sweet dessert mead. Last year I made some peach mead that is finally getting clear and aging nicely. This year I have traditional mead that I want to split up and turn some of it into strawberry-rhubarb mead.For more information, go to www.bigbeersfestival.com.