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Hooked on India pale ale

Daily Staff ReportVail CO, Colorado
Ryan Thomas won the Best of Show award at last year's Big Beers Homebrew Competition for his English-style Barleywine called "Ragnarok."As the grand prize winner, his recipe was brewed on a commercial scale at Dry Dock Brewing in Aurora, and poured around Colorado at various brewpubs and specialty bars, such as the Falling Rock Tap House in Denver.
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Editor’s note: Brew Genius, a seasonal weekly feature, profiles some of the homebrewers competing at this year’s 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 http://www.bigbeersfestival.com or call High Point Brewing at 524-1092.Vail Daily: Evolution of a brewer: From a style and/or technique standpoint, where did you start? Where are you now?Ryan Thomas: I started homebrewing in college, attempting to clone Grolsch, my favorite beer at the time. My first several batches were all malt-extract and nothing remotely resembling Grolsch. They did help me to learn that there is more to beer than light lagers though. The first time I brewed an India Pale Ale about three brews in, and learned the history behind it, I was hooked, and that is still one of my favorite styles to brew today. Eventually I moved on to malt-extract with some grains, and finally into all grain brewing about four years ago. I still enjoy trying to clone commercial beers, but after the first brewing I tend to look at how I can adjust the recipe more to my tastes rather than trying to perfect the clone. Lately I’ve been more competitive and I’ve entered and judged several contests.VD: Do you brew alone or with others? Why?RT: I brew alone, though on occasion I will try to get a friend interested and have them brew with me. For me brewing has always been a solo activity. Some of my club mates brew in pairs, and that seems to work for them, but I like to have control of the process myself all the way through. Plus I’d have to split the beer with someone. VD: Where do you brew? How many beers do you have cellaring at any given time?RT: I brew at home in my garage. I started out in the kitchen, but I’ve now moved up to a larger brewery consisting of four converted commercial kegs, and that takes a lot of space and ventilation. Right now I am preparing for the 2008 competition season so I have quite a few in process and aging. In my fermenters right now I have 20 gallons of mead that is almost ready to bottle, 10 gallons of German Pils and 10 gallons of Munich Dunkel that should be ready early next year, and 20 gallons of lambic that won’t be ready for years. Cellaring I have two meads, four barleywines and an old ale, plus about 10 batches that have been bottled or kegged and are ready for drinking.VD: Do you brew enough to drink your own beer all year long?RT: Yes, though I do still purchase some commercially. I like the wide variety that I can find here in Colorado. There are some styles that I like to drink on occasion, but wouldn’t want to have to care for several gallons of, or can’t produce (yet) like gueuze.VD: What’s your favorite commercially produced beer?RT: I have a lot of favorites. Avery’s Hog Heaven Barleywine is probably tops, with Russian River’s Pliny the Elder and Stone’s Ruination IIPAs way up there. Grolsch and St. Pauli Girl (Beck’s) Dark are also on the list.VD: What’s your ultimate beer food pairing?RT: Imperial India Pale Ale with Malt Vinegar and Sea Salt potato chips. The massive hoppiness of the IIPA lingers on the tongue, and the salt and vinegar help to cut it and prepare you for another taste, while the hops do the same for the lingering salt and vinegar Trading back and forth between the two intense tastes is wonderful.VD: What are you entering in the Big Beers Homebrew Competition this January? (Name/Style)RT: Hopocalypse Imperial India Pale Ale (out of control hops).Ragnarok English Barleywine (last year’s Big Beers winner).Gotterdammerung American Barleywine (my version of Avery’s Hog Heaven).And maybe a few more TBD.VD: What’s your favorite beer quote or motto?RT: Mmmmm…Beer. Homer SimpsonI think that says it all.VD: Why is beer wonderful?RT: The history of man is the history of beer. Almost as far back as we have recorded history there is beer or something similar. It is a living, evolving creation between man, yeast and the local ingredients and conditions. We’ve reached a point in brewing knowledge and technology where rapid advancements in quality, control and economics are allowing beer and brewing to flourish, which allows brewers the opportunity to display their creative talents. Beer is one thing that I have confidence will continue to improve over any suitably long term period. Plus, we are almost close to having enough hops in our best examples!VD: If you couldn’t drink beer, what would you drink?RT: Eggnog with Jack Daniels would be tasty this time of year.============Brief statsName: Ryan Thomas.Hometown: Westminster.Career: Artificial Intelligence Consultant.Number of years Homebrewing: 10.Name of Homebrew Club: KROC (Keg Ran Out Club) and Hop, Barley and the Alers.=============


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