Fort Collins homebrewer talks about his hobby-turned-passion
Editor’s note: Brew Genius, an annual feature we run every winter, profiles some of the homebrewers competing at this years Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Festival. The 11th annual festival takes place Jan. 6 through 8 at the Vail Cascade Resort & Spa. For more information on the event, visit http://www.bigbeersfestival.com or call High Point Brewing at 970-524-1092. 1. Vail Daily: Evolution of a brewer: From a style and/or technique standpoint, where did you start? Where are you now?Remi Bonnart: In the late ’90s, a friend gave me a few pieces of homebrewing equipment, some of which I still use today. I started out brewing a few extract batches and found out that this was the hobby for me. 2. VD: What is your favorite beer-related destination?RB: Probably Belgium! I am always am amazed at the sheer number of breweries and diversity of beers in a fairly small country like Belgium. The Trappists are some of my favorite Belgian beers because they are so unique and are actually brewed by monks in working monastaries. The six in Belgium are: Westmalle, Westvleteren, Rochefort, Orval, Chimay and Achel. It is truly amazing how much beer and brewing knowledge we Americans have gained from the Belgians. When you look at the American craft beer industry, there are a lot of breweries brewing Belgian styles, and even hybridizing them with American styles, with great success.3. VD: What advice do you have for someone thinking about getting into homebrewing?RB: Start small and do your research. There are a lot of great resources out there for people looking to get into the hobby. One that comes to mind is HowToBrew.com, which is totally free and has a ton of good info. I am also a fan of books and the two books that I learned a lot of what I know from are Charlie Papzian’s: “New Complete Joy of Homebrewing” (more basic) and “The Homebrewer’s Companion” (more advanced). Also, joining a local homebrew club can be a great resource, as networking with other homebrewers can be very rewarding. 4. VD: What’s your ultimate food/beer pairing?RB: There are so many wonderful combinations of beer and food that is hard to say. Lately, my wife prepared a wonderful beef stew made with homebrewed maple porter and topped with a blue-cheese crust. This meal, paired with the same maple porter on nitro that it is cooked with, is dynamite! Another pairing I have had lately is homemade pfeffernusse cookies paired with a homebrewed passionfruit wheat ale. Sounds kind of weird, but it is really an amazing combination! 5. VD: What are you entering in the Big Beers Homebrew Competition this January?RB: I am planning on entering a few beers that I have stashed away. These would include: Flanders Red ale with cherries, Belgian Saison, Belgian Specialty ale (brewed entirely with Brettanomyces yeast), and American Barleywine. Maybe a few others depending if I can get them ready in time! 6. VD: What’s the most interesting ingredient you’ve ever used in a beer?RB: Probably Kaffir lime leaves. They are a common ingredient in Thai food, which I love, and I started using this ingredient after I tried a beer brewed by New Belgium Brewing years ago. 7. VD: Where do you get your inspiration for recipes? From commercially produced beers? Elsewhere?RB” There are a lot of places that I get my inspiration. These would include: other breweries, food, and homebrew club meetings. Sometimes I think it’s fun to “clone” a commercially produced beer and see how close you can get to it. I have nailed a few (such as Odell IPA) but it is really challenging sometimes. Other times I think it’s really interesting to brew a beer according to something tasty that you ate. One that I brewed earlier this year was a pistachio nut brown ale, inspired by some pistachio ice cream I had in New York City. Homebrew club meetings have also been a great inspiration to me. Our group has a lot of great brewers and it’s always fun to see what they are brewing with. A couple in the club once brewed a Saffron tripel that was outstanding. I haven’t brewed with saffron yet, but I plan to some day! 8.VD: Are organic ingredients of specific interest to you?RB: Yes, in fact I brewed my first all-organic, all-grain batch of beer this year. It was an American IPA. I used a lot of homegrown organic hops from my backyard and the rest of the ingredients I purchased at my local homebrew store, Hops & Berries. It is much more limiting to brew organic, but there is a wider selection of organic ingredients all the time. I generally brew with conventionally-grown ingredients but will use organic when it is available.
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