Imagine, as a homebrewer, having three months every summer with nothing to do but watch reruns. Our newest homebrewer has just such a problem. As a teacher (bravo), he has the summer months to himself and is making the most of it. Having just started homebrewing late last year, this homebrewer is making up for lost time. Welcome to the Comfy Computer Chair of Fame, Mr. Greg Yelland. They teach psychology in high school?
Name: Greg Yelland
Day Job: High School psychology teacher and varsity assistant baseball coach
When did you start homebrewing?
I brewed my first ever batch (Brewers Best Red Ale) on November 17th, 2011.
What got you into homebrewing? A person? An unfulfilled interest? Sheer boredom?
I was in desperate need of a hobby. My wife travels for work a lot and I am stuck at home watching "Back to the Future" for the third time in the same weekend. I knew a couple of friends who homebrewed so I called them up. They gave me a list of items I would need to start, and I celebrated my 29th birthday by purchasing my beginners brewing kit.
Do you belong to a homebrew club? What is it?
Currently, no. But I do have a handful of friends who all come together on brew days and hang out. And because we brew at least once a month I guess it could constitute as a club. I suppose I should start collecting their dues...
Where do you brew? Inside/outside?
I began brewing in the kitchen. My wife didn't mind too much as long as I cleaned up promptly when I was finished... but I needed more space. I have gotten to be very OCD when it comes to setting up my brew days. I set up my turkey fryer outside along with a folding table. I lay out all of my equipment and resources to make sure everything is accounted for and clean. I have found that being outside makes the experience better for me, regardless of the cold Michigan winters. It is the same feeling you get sitting in the woods waiting for that monster buck... being outside in Michigan is a beautiful thing!
Where do you ferment? Have you had to do anything creative to facilitate this?
Ah, fermentation! This is when I learned the difference between Lager and Ale beer. Depending on the temperature of the house and what I am brewing factors in to where/how I ferment. In most cases I will ferment an Ale beer in my basement cellar. It stays around 65-75 degrees. I did attempt to make a Bock (Lager) beer once and did not realize until after I brewed that it needed to ferment in much cooler temperatures. I hooked up a redneck's contraption to make this possible... I placed the carboy in a hug cooler, filled it with water, and placed frozen 2 liter bottles in the cooler... which did an alright job of keeping the temperature of the carboy around 45 degrees. It got really old changing those ice bottles everyday for 3 months!
Do you have a pet name for your homebrewing enterprise? If so, can you give us a little background?
I do not, but once my wife reads this question I am sure she will assign me one.
How large are your batches?
I have only done the standard 5 gallon batches up to this point. Recently, I have been doing some online 'shopping' looking for a 40 qt pot to start making 10 gallon batches.
What kind of equipment do you have?
I would say that my equipment is like a starter kit on steroids. I do extract brewing so my stuff is pretty basic but I have made upgrades in a few areas. For example, I am a HUGE fan of yeast starters. I spent some money and got a great stir plate and 2000 mL flask for this. I also upgraded my standard kitchen pot to a 30 qt pot and a really nice turkey fryer. Most of my other stuff (capper, buckets, carboys etc.) are standard stuff you would find in a beginners kit.
Are you fine with that or do you expect to upgrade to bigger and better?
I think if you are serious about any hobby you will always want to grow and expand on your talents and abilities. Each batch I brew I make it a point to do something different... whether that is using a new piece of equipment, adding something the recipe does not call for, or even doing a yeast starter when the directions do not say you need one. But I do want to improve upon and increase my equipment. I would like a larger pot, a wort chiller and even different equipment to start making wine.
What are your favorite styles to brew?
I enjoy brewing beer that have a lot of different types of ingredients. For example, I brewed a Belgium beer a few months ago and it called for over one pound of rock candy. How cool is that! I also like experimenting with standard ale beer and tweaking with the recipe (like adding a chocolate extract to a Irish Stout).
How many batches have you made this year?
I have made 7 batches so far this year.
Give us some examples and the names you picked out for them if you gave them a name.
My wife is in charge of naming my beer (which gives her some ownership of the process and keeps her happy). Here are some examples:
Bock: Bock to the Future
Chocolate Stout: Willy Wonka Water
Red Ale: Santa's Red Coat
Sierra Nevada Clone: Thing 1 Thing 2 (named after the Dr. Suess theme for my sister's baby shower)
Baltic Porter: The Black Plague
Any bad batches? Were you smited by the homebrewing gods?
So far, no. I have opened some bucket lids and have gotten worried about what I saw, but they all have turned out alright. I think one of the reasons I have been lucky enough to have had great batches is because I take sanitation very seriously. Keeping clean equipment will greatly limit your chances of having a bad batch.
Brewing plans for the future?
I am very excited to make a brewers trip to MN with a homebrewer friend of mine in August. We are going to visit Northern Brewer and Midwest Brewing Supplies. I plan on brewing two more batches before school starts in September, which will be easy to do. Once school starts back up I will probably average one batch per month until baseball season starts (where I will only get to do one batch during the season).
Plans on entering any competitions this year?
You know, I really should look into that. I think that it would be a great experience and a lot of fun. I am going to add this to my list of "Must Do's".
Any awards from past competitions?
Brewing, no. But I did win a trophy at the social studies department President's Day party for my wicked knowledge of Presidential trivia!
Any advice you'd like to give other homebrewers?
Yes, do your research! There are so many different resources out there to help you become a better brewer. Northern Brewer has a great TV channel called "Brewer TV" which can be found on their website. Other sites like CellarMonk.com do a great job of posting reviews, ratings, and news. Anything you can do to increase your knowledge of homebrewing is a good thing. I really enjoy watching/reading interviews with other homebrewers and learning new ways to keep homebrewing fun. Lastly, if you do not use a yeast starter then do it!
Any closing thoughts?
I cannot even begin to explain how much fun I have making my own beer. What a cool day when you have the turkey fryer going and there are 5-10 people standing around the kettle shooting the bull. I find it very rewarding when I am able to take growlers to a party or family get-together and people really enjoy my beer. But the thing I like most about it is opening that very first bottle of a batch and enjoying it completely by myself...
If you could sit down with 1 person (living or dead) and ask them questions. What brew would you offer them and what would be the first questions you would ask?
I would sit down with my grandpa Bula (my mom's father who passed before I was born). I would offer him one of my Triple Trouble's and ask him about the state championship he won in football during high school.
If you were King, what would you do to right the beer universe?
Wort would cool down to 60 degrees within 3 seconds if I were King!
*** Let's Get Personal ***
Married my bride on July 18th of 2008... she says I make an excellent first husband.
I am doing it! Teaching at a great high school in Michigan and loving (almost) every minute of it.