Our first homebrew interview of the year is a hot one. Sitting in the comfy computer chair of fame is a nine year homebrewer hailing from Fallston, MD, USA. When he's not fightin' fires or savin' peoples lives, he is more than likely firing up his brewing kit to make yet another tasty brew. We at CellarMonk applaud his career choice (selflessness is an awesome trait) and his choice of hobbies (beer). Gotta figure it's pretty easy to clean the brewing kit with a firehose. Welcome to the CellarMonk Interview Series Mr. Keith Hipsley, known to the Twitterverse as @FireBrewer
Name: Keith Hipsley
Day Job: Career Firefighter/Paramedic
When did you start homebrewing? New Years Day 2003
What got you into homebrewing? A person? An unfulfilled interest? Sheer boredom?
A friend introduced me to it about 14 years ago. I bought a homebrew kit and didn't really use it until about 9 years ago. Bought new ingredients for the kit, brewed my first batch, and was instantly hooked.
Do you belong to a homebrew club? What is it?
Frederick's Original Ale Makers, Frederick, MD.
Where do you brew? Inside/outside?
Outside in my garage
Where do you ferment? Have you had to do anything creative to facilitate this?
Depends on the time of year. Mostly in the basement (fridge for lagers too), but sometimes in a closet on the main level in the winter. In the summer I've had to put a Saison somewhere upstairs that's very warm.
Do you have a pet name for your homebrewing enterprise? If so, can you give us a little background?
Old Station Brewing. A friend and I were daydreaming about buying an old fire station and making it a brewery and I liked the name.
How large are your batches?
Generally 5 gallon, sometimes 10 (especially lagers).
What kind of equipment do you have?
1/2-barrel 3-keg propane-fired brewing system, pump and plate chiller. Buckets/carboys for fermentation.
Are you fine with that or do you expect to upgrade to bigger and better?
Fine with where I'm at. Smaller batches keep the beer fresh, allow me to brew with more variety and let me experiment more.
What are your favorite styles to brew?
Lagers, dark ales, hoppy but malty ales
All grain/Extract or both?
All grain now. My first 10 batches were extract, 100 AG after that.
How many batches have you made this year (2011)?
Only 9. Busy year with selling and moving to a new house, breaking down the brewing stuff, setting it back up, etc.
Do you keg, or are you still bottling?
Keg mostly. Bottle for handouts, competitions, and beers I want to bottle condition.
Give us some examples and the names you picked out for them if you gave them a name.
Altfeuerwache Kolsch, Defibrillator Dopplebock, Layout Stout, L'il Kegger's Imperial Stout
Any bad batches? Were you smited by the homebrewing gods?
I think everyone gets those from time to time. Luckily I've had only a handfull of infected batches. The others I've dumped had too much diacetyl, oxidation, acetaldehyde, astringency, etc.
Brewing plans for next year?
Gonna do a Maibock soon for Spring, and I need to get a lot of Oktoberfest lagering before summer. Also gonna experiment a bit more with some non-traditional ingredients.
Plans on entering any competitions?
Always. It's good feedback, the schwag is nice and when you do well it's a nice kick in your step.
Any awards from past competitions?
A few club ones, 2nd BOS with a Maibock, mostly local/county faire types. Haven't submitted to any national comps yet.
Any advice you'd like to give other homebrewers?
Focus on cleanliness and yeast (fermentation temp, pitching rate, etc). Brewers make wort; yeast makes beer.
When I'm not homebrewing in the kitchen, I make/cook a mean....?
Buffalo Chicken Salad. I do 99% of the cooking at home and cook a lot at work.
Some parting thoughts?
I love the homebrewing and craft beer community in general. Few hobbies and crafts are made up of a group of people who are genuinely supportive and forthcoming with help. The camaraderie is what keeps me brewing.
I'd love to stick around and ask some more question, but I have to go sing to my hop vines. Please ask and answer a final question. La la la la...Me me me....
Worst brewing transgression? 2nd batch was an IPA. Recipe called for oak chips. I added 4oz---to the boil. Needless to say it was a little astringent. Still drank most of the batch!