Brew Genius: Beer encompasses all that is life – Vail, CO
VAIL, Colorado Editors note: Brew Genius, a new weekly feature, profiles some of the homebrewers competing at this year Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywine Festival, which takes place Jan. 8-10 at the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort & Spa. For more information on the event, visit http://www.bigbeersfestival.com or call High Point Brewing at 970-524-1092. ======Brief Stats:Name: John RathmellHometown: St. Louis, MOCareer: Software EngineerNo. of years homebrewing: 10 yearsName of homebrew club: Ann Arbor Brewers Guild=======1.Vail Daily: Evolution of a brewer: From a style and/or technique standpoint, where did you start? Where are you now? John Rathmell: I started brewing in 1998 as a natural progression from having developed a strong appreciation for higher quality beers. I was fascinated by the wide diversity of styles and flavors, and by the history that defined beer, as well as history that was defined by beer. I believed that participation by creation would be a great way to facilitate this interest, while also providing me with unique brews that had never before existed. I found that brewing also provides me with a creative outlet, and with brewing being such a wonderful balance of art and science, its a hobby that fits very well within my own psyche of analytical paradigms and adventurous appetites.2. VD: Do you brew alone or with others? Why? JR: I typically brew alone. I have developed my own specific methods of brewing, cleaning and sanitizing, all of which usually work very well for me. I am the head cook of my kitchen, and its important for me to maintain tight control over my processes. I believe that this control has allowed me to make many high quality beers over the years, and when I occasionally screw one up, I know that its completely my own fault.That all being said, I do not exclusively brew alone. I have several friends that are also homebrewers, and they are always welcome to stop by to observe and to participate. And as someone who is known among his friends as an experienced brewer, I am occasionally called upon to help others, which is a favor I am usually quite happy to do.3. VD: Where do you brew? How many beers do you have cellaring at any given time?JR: I almost exclusively brew in my own home. I have a second-floor balcony that is well-suited for a propane burner, an adequate kitchen, and a pantry which is about 5-feet-by-5-feet and exclusively dedicated to brewing activities. The number of beers that I have cellaring at one time can vary dramatically. I own eight 6.5-gallon primary fermenters and eight 5-gallon secondary fermenters. While there have been a couple of occasions over the past nine or 10 years in which all sixteen carboys were filled, that is quite rare.4. VD: Whats your favorite commercially produced beer?JR: This is a question that I have been asked by many people over the years. The answer is not as simple as just giving a name, because there are so many good beers for use in so many different situations. Bells Expedition Stout goes wonderfully with sweet desserts like chocolate cake, whereas a great all-around session beer is Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier is a very tasty meat-and-potatoes beer, and for an extraordinary sipping experience, the originally Swiss-made (now Austrian-made) Samichlaus is an incredibly complex brew that everyone must try at least once in their lifetime. So, thats a list of some of the best beers in the world, in my opinion, but comparing any one of them to the others would definitely be an apples and oranges situation.5. VD: What is your ultimate beer/food pairing? JR: Im kind of funny about my beer consumption, in that I typically dont like to eat food and drink beer at the same time. Yep, thats right, no beer and pizza for me. Its usually Mountain Dew or Coca-Cola that goes along with my pizza. Now, there are some ideal pairings, like desserts with dark beers, and smoked beers with meat, but overall I tend to prefer to enjoy the many complexities and nuances of each beer as they are, and to not taint them with the flavors of food.6. VD: What are you entering in the Big Beers Homebrew Competition this January? JR: At this point, I do not have a complete list of my entries, as I am working on some of the now. However, I do have a few styles that Im rather sure of at this point:Russian Imperial StoutAmerican Style BarleywineEnglish Style BarleywineStrong Dark Belgian AleBelgian TripelImperial IPA7. VD: Whats your favorite beer quote or motto?JR: Is Drink Michigan Beer Too mundane? I dont think so. Michigan is all about beer. Some of the best breweries and brewpubs are located here. The homebrewing community is tight-knit and full of experience, enthusiasm, and good people. The slogan conveys the simple idea that our beer and our community must be experienced in order to understand what were all about. And what were all about is good beer, good fun, and good brewers. Drink Michigan beer!8. VD: Why is beer wonderful? JR: History, art, science… thats beer, all rolled up into a tasty little beverage. Beer is the culmination of many centuries of development, evolution, trial and error, good and bad times, and all of that which defines the characteristics of life itself. Its human history and human culture. It encompasses all that which is life. And above all, it really does taste good! 9. VD: What beer have you tried lately that youve been impressed with?JR: Stones Double Bastard. This is a beer which had previously (in my area) only been available in a gigantic, rather expensive bottle. I have recently noticed it available in a 22-ounce bottle, and as a fan of Stones Arrogant Bastard, I had to try it. I have an extensive database of my brewing activities as well as a commentary on the different commercial beers that I try, and the following is my entry for this phenomenal brew:Powerful. Very powerful. A sweet maltiness, which is not overwhelming, is the immediate flavor which is like a very brief calm before a storm of sensations. Bitterness is the first, with a piercing poking of electrifying hoppiness. This quickly segways into a body-warming alcohol warmth that heats from tongue to belly. It all combines for an almost floral sensation in the nose, and concludes with a brief resurgence of the malt sweetness.