Vail brewing: Brewer’s friends flock to free beer
Vail Daily: Evolution of a brewer: From a style and/or technique standpoint, where did you start? Where are you now?Jim Spaulding: I was inspired by the early bottle-conditioned ales that hit the scene in the mid 1980s and so my very first home brewed beer was a pale ale. I was excited by how good it tasted and how easy it was to make. I was hooked. These days I am into brewing authentic European-style lagers using a motorized mash cooker I built in my garage. The last couple of years I’ve also developed a renewed interest in Belgian-style beer. VD: Do you brew alone or with others? Why? JS: On rare occasions I’ll invite someone to join me in a brewing session, but most of my buddies aren’t really interested in the process so much as the free beer that comes from it. VD: Where do you brew? How many beers do you have cellaring at any given time?JS: I have a “brew house” just off my kitchen with a hand-dug cellar directly below it (free beer has its advantages when you need cellar-diggers). At the end of brewing season each spring I normally have about seven barrels of beer on hand. At the moment I have approximately six cases of Belgian-style ales, six 5-gallon casks of German-style lager and approximately 12 cases of English and American-style ales. VD: What is your favorite beer-related destination?JS: I have dreams of doing a Netherlands/Belgium/Germany tour one day. But in the here-and-now I would have to say I’m lucky to live in Colorado since the opportunities to visit brew pubs, microbreweries and beer events seem endless. My favorite trip is an overnighter to Vail each January for the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival. I go with beer-savvy friends and we usually include snowshoeing or other activities. VD: What is your favorite commercially produced beer that you discovered this year?JS: As a home brewer I don’t spend a lot of money on commercial beer, but when I do it’s usually for “research purposes” in an effort to develop and fine-tune my recipes. A nice discovery for me this year was Rochefort 8.VD: What’s your ultimate beer/food pairing?JS: Given the buzz about this subject I know this will sound pretty simplistic, but my favorite pairing is a malty lager with almost any kind of sausage and potato dish. Smoked sausages atop white cheddar cheese mashers served with an Oktoberfest just sprung to mind. VD: What are you entering in the Big Beers Homebrew Competition this January?JS: I suppose it will depend on what I have ready to enter (and what I’m willing to part with). I have a decent doppelbock I call “Kupinator” but I only have a few bottles remaining. It’s sometimes tough to let them go when they might be better appreciated with a friend on a cold snowy night. Decisions, decisions.VD: Do you name your beers? If so, tell us about how you come up with the names. What’s your most clever to date?JS: I’ve always called my home brewery the Kupferschmidt Brewing Company, in honor of my Grandfather Leo Kupferschmidt, who, like many folks, took up home brewing during prohibition. I’ve created labels for all of my brews. One of my favorites is for my Haymaker Farmhouse Ale. It features an old photo of my dad and I harvesting bales of hay back on the farm in southern Indiana. VD: If you had a chance to brew with one professional brewer in the world, who would it be and why?JS: That’s almost as tough as choosing a favorite style of beer. Off the cuff I’d have to say Franz Inselkammer of Ayinger. The quest to brew authentic lagers is a passion worth pursuing, and what could be better than learning from one of the best? VD: What’s the most interesting ingredient you’ve ever used in a beer?JS: The most interesting ingredient I’ve ever used was aphids. I unwittingly added them while dryhopping a cask of ale with homegrown hops. The beer was served at a get-together in the biergartens but wasn’t tapped until after dark, so the little buggers went unnoticed the entire evening. I made the gruesome discovery a couple of days later when heading out to the taps for a mid-day restorative. Now that was a beer with body – or is that bodies?VD: Tell us about your biggest homebrewing disaster.JS: A few years ago I bought stainless fermenters for my new cellar. I should have tasted the first batch more than once before harvesting the yeast for subsequent batches. Apparently I did not sanitize the ball valves correctly and it developed an infection of some kind. I ruined two other 10-gallon batches of ale by reusing the tainted yeast. It was a dark time in Kupferschmidt history. VD: Where do you get your inspiration for recipes? From commercially produced beers? Elsewhere?JS: I’m almost always inspired by great beers I’ve tasted and often attempt to brew something similar. These days there are not only pure yeast samples available but myriad other authentic ingredients as well. This really helps to dial in the recipes. Sometimes I get close to the original. Other times I just end up with a pretty good version of the style. And if something doesn’t turn out as planned, no worries. Free beer doesn’t last long in my circle of friends.
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. 7-9 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.