Homebrewers prepare mead for Vail beer festival
Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado COEditor’s 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. 5-6 at Manor Vail Resort in Golden Peak. For more information on the event, visit http://www.BigBeersFestival.com or call High Point Brewing at 524-1092.1. Evolution of a brewer: From a style and/or technique standpoint, where did you start? Where are you now?My brother had a beer-can collection when I was little. My parents used to take me and him to this restaurant in Washington, D.C., called the Brickskeller just to get him beer cans from different beers they ordered. So my earliest memories of beer were family ones where I was involved in the appreciation, via my parents, of the different brands, different packaging, etc.For brewing I started with beer kits (malt extract only) and a plastic five-gallon bucket fermentor. Made a Scottish Ale in the early 1990s and was amazed at how good it tasted. Loved watching it bubble away as the yeast ate the sugar from the malt and have been hooked ever since.
Then I stepped up to “partial grain” brewing where you take grains and add them to malt extract to supplement. It enhances flavor, aroma and overall complexity of the final product.Now I do “all grain” brewing. My husband and I have a two 15-gallon Italian kettles that are all stainless steel. God are they beautiful. This allows us to only use grain (no extract) and mash the grain to convert the starches to sugar ourselves. This is the ultimate in control for a homebrewer and mimics what brew pubs do on the commercial level.My advice to anyone wanting to get involved in brewing. First stop into a local home brew store and get a beginner kit. Then find a local home brew club to go to. This really helped motivate my desire to excel in the beers I made. 2. Do you brew alone or with others? Why? I love to brew with just myself and or my husband. It’s an art, but speed is key. Otherwise you spend all day brewing. 3. Where do you brew? How many beers do you have cellaring at any given time? Four years ago we had our first child, and now we also have a one-year-old, so I haven’t made any beer in four years. But I have made mead. Mead (honey wine) is great because the fermentable (honey) is ready to go. In other words it’s quicker to make a batch of mead than to brew beer or make grape wine. It does not need any conversion. To make beer you have to mash the malt to convert the starches into sugars and then the yeast can produce alcohol. To make grape wine you need to crush your grapes to get juice before you can add yeast to get your alcohol. So both have an extra step. To make mead you just need honey, water and yeast. If your readers haven’t had mead they should try it. Colorado has some great companies make mead, and I know for sure Redstone Mead (www.redstonemeadery.com) can be purchased in the Vail Valley.
Mead also, to me, has the most complex and arousing aroma and flavor profile of any fermented beverage around. That’s why I created the web site http://www.honeywine.com. The first time in 1998 that I tried mead I had to learn more. As I learned, I put together my Web site, and now it’s the leading web site on commercial mead. So my interest in mead just became an extension of my interest in good craft and home made beer.4. Do you brew enough to drink your own beer all year long? No, having kids has taken care of that. Plus, I’m 100-pound woman, so I’m a cheap date and only need a little to go a long way. So I’ve never needed to stock pile what we make.5. Favorite commercially produced beer? Bells Two Hearted Ale. It’s got one malt, one hop and it’s the most quaffable/satisfying beer I’ve ever had.6. Ultimate beer-food pairing?
A pale ale and dinner. Does not matter what’s on the menu. Pale Ale goes great with all main dishes I’ve ever served it with.7. What are you entering in the Big Beers Homebrew Competition this January? Likely a cyser mead I made (honey fermented along with apple cider) and maybe a very old (might be past its prime need to sample before I send in) Old Ale we made about six years ago. And maybe a braggot (part malt part honey).8. Favorite beer quote or motto? “Life’s too short to drink bad beer” and “Real women don’t drink light beer”.9. Why is beer wonderful? Life is pretty serious. Beer, at least good beer, tastes so wonderful going down, it warms your heart and leaves you feeling just a bit happier than before you cracked one open.Brew statsName: Julia Herz.Hometown: Lyons.Career: Marketing and PR consultant, plus mother to a one- and four-year old.Number of years homebrewing: More than 15.Name of homebrew club: Hop, Barley and the Alers in Boulder.
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