Bringing to the podium, a modern homebrewer with a Real Ale bent. Having spent time in the land of Pilsner (Czech), missing the smooth dark roastyness of a Porter or Stout, we give to you Alistair Reece. @Fuggled to the twitterverse and Velky Al to those that know him, he sits on the comfy computer chair of fame for this grueling homebrew interview. Take it away Al.
Name: Alistair Reece aka Velky Al
Day Job: Business Development Director for a web design company
When did you start homebrewing?
My first brew was in February 2009 when I bought a kit for a mild ale, chucked in some rauchmalt and used Wyeast Scottish Ale yeast rather than whatever was under the lid of the tin.
What got you into homebrewing? A person? An unfulfilled interest? Sheer boredom?
I was living in Prague at the time and basically it was difficult to find anything other was pale lager, admittedly wonderful pale lager, but I had a hankering for stouts and porters and the beers I had grown up drinking back home in Scotland. So I decided to make my own.
Do you belong to a homebrew club? What is it?
I recently joined the Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale.
Where do you brew? Inside/oustide?
I brew in the kitchen.
Where do you ferment? Have you had to do anything creative to facilitate this?
Fermentation takes place in either our inside utility room during the winter, or the outside storage room in the summer, where the temperatures are pretty much consistently 68° - 70°.
Do you have a pet name for your homebrewing enterprise? If so, can you give us a little background?
I have called it several things, but settled finally for Green Dragon Brewing. The name comes from the fact that it is the name of the pub in Bywater, in Lord of the Rings.
How large are your batches?
By most people's standards they are tiny, only 2.5 gallons. This is mainly due to having a small flat and not a lot of storage space.
What kind of equipment do you have?
Pretty basic to be honest, a kettle, 3 carboys, bottling bucket, auto siphon, hydrometer and thermometer. I have a wort chiller, but have yet to use it because my batches cool quick enough in an ice bath.
Are you fine with that or do you expect to upgrade to bigger and better?
At the moment I am fine with my setup, I know what to expect from it and I brew beer that people want to drink. I expect I will upgrade my equipment eventually, but I am in no rush.
What are your favorite styles to brew?
I like dark ales, stouts, porters, mild.
All grain/Extract or both?
I brew extract with specialty grains. At the moment I see no value in going to all grain. I am convinced that getting the process right is more important to begin with. I read in BYO that the main reason people make better beer when going from extract to all grain is that people invest in better equipment at the same time.
How many batches have you made this year?
So far this year I have brewed 3 times, an Extra Stout, an Irish Red and a Barleywine.
Give us some examples and the names you picked out for them if you gave them a name.
The Extra Stout is called Thunder Child, based on the fact I was listening to Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds at the time. The Irish Red is called Mrs Velkyal's Session Beer because it is an attempt to brew a low alcohol ale similar to the one my wife really enjoyed when we lived in Prague.
Any bad batches? Were you smited by the homebrewing gods?
Just the one so far, a pale ale that simply didn't ferment.
Brewing plans for next year?
I really only plan a few months ahead at a time. In the plans though is to make 3 batches of my lime infused wheat beer that I first brewed in Prague in 2008, but ferment one with the usual Belgian Witbier yeast, one with a German Weizen yeast and one with an American Wheat strain.
Plans on entering any competitions?
I am planning to enter the same competitions as last year:
Dominion Cup and Virginia Beer Blitz in VirginiaPalmetto State Brewers Open in South Carolina
Any awards from past competitions?
At the Virginia Beer Blitz last year I took gold in the Porter category and silver in the Brown Ale and Mild. I took silver at the Palmetto State Brewers Open I won silver in the Strong Ale category.
Any advice you'd like to give other homebrewers?
Don't be in a rush to go all grain and get all the latest, greatest gizmos. Also, rein in the creative urge until you have got the base style down pat.
Any closing thoughts?
Brewing beer is one of the most enjoyable hobbies possible, and you get to drink the end result, want beats that?