Making beer is always a gamble. From ingredients to sanitation to any number of other factors, there is always the chance of busting. Our next homebrewer to sit in the Comfy Computer Chair of Fame comes to us from the gambling center of the United State, Las Vegas. So please extend a hand (get it!) and get to know Cicerone Certified, Award winning homebrewer, Mr. Grant Heuer.
Name: Grant Heuer
Day Job: Currently The Beer Guy at U Bottle It, an awesome homebrew store in Henderson, Nevada. Previously I was the Assistant Brewer for Big Dog’s Brewing Co here in Las Vegas.
When did you start homebrewing?
I started about 3 and a half years ago.
What got you into homebrewing? A person? An unfulfilled interest? Sheer boredom?
Well, I played poker professionally for a number of years and knew I wanted to be my own boss. I also knew I was getting more and more into craft beer. All of that factored into my plan to eventually start a brewpub. I figured I better brew beer at home first before I went to all of that effort though.
Do you belong to a homebrew club? What is it?
SNAFU of Las Vegas. I also proudly represent The Brewing Network, as I am a very avid listener.
Where do you brew? Inside/outside?
I brew on my back porch. Unless it’s windy. Then I move my burner inside and leave the back door open. I turn on the fan if I start to get light-headed. Drinking beer always helps.
Where do you ferment? Have you had to do anything creative to facilitate this?
I ferment in a big chest freezer with a Johnson controller, but also in large tubs full of water. I cut holes in the tops for the airlocks to stick out and I trade out frozen water bottles to keep temps down.
Do you have a pet name for your homebrewing enterprise? If so, can you give us a little background?
I call my operation Go Big Or Go Home Brewing because I’m very much an all or nothing personality type. I brewed 8 mini-mash batches in my first 3 days of homebrewing.
How large are your batches?
I usually brew 5.5 to 6 gallon batches.
What kind of equipment do you have?
I have a pretty simple Brew-In-A-Bag setup. 9.5 gallon pot, banjo burner, bottling bucket lined with a big strainer bag for sparging. I did recently get a very fancy oxygenation kit and pH meter, but otherwise I’m definitely rocking the poor man’s system. I’ve thought of upgrading numerous times, but I enjoy being able to tell fellow homebrewers they can make very good award-winning beer with the bare essentials.
Are you fine with that or do you expect to upgrade to bigger and better?
Other than getting a Blichmann beer gun I don’t expect to be upgrading my homebrewing setup too majorly anytime soon. Well, maybe another chest freezer or two.
What are your favorite styles to brew?
Session IPAs, weird Brett beers, and anything hoppy/funky with Nelson Sauvin.
How many batches have you made this year?
Probably 30 or so. I’ve been brewing 2 to 3 a week recently.
Give us some examples and the names you picked out for them if you gave them a name.
Helles Too Good For You Munich Helles, Purring Kitten Session IPA, & It’s A Celebration Bitches! Smoked Dubbel have been some of my recent brews. I also just re-brewed an Oatmeal Saison called Breakfast In Antwerp.
Any bad batches? Were you smited/smote by the homebrewing gods?
Oh sure. I miss the mark here and there. My biggest issues lately have been a Berliner Weiss that is taking its sweet time souring and a few IPAs where I probably goofed around with the water profile a little too much. I tried to replicate the Burton On Trent water for an IPA and the 27 grams of gypsum on top of all the other salts made it damn near undrinkable. Only damn near though.
Brewing plans for the future?
Well, I’ve started this blogging endeavor at www.bjcphero.com where I’m trying to win an award in all 23 BJCP categories, so my brewing plans definitely involve making award-winners in the 17 categories I haven’t won in yet.
Plans on entering any competitions this year?
Absolutely! I’ve been trying to enter at least a couple competitions every month lately.
Any awards from past competitions (Just a sampling)?
I just recently won 6 awards in the Nevada State Championship and 4 in Novembeerfest in Kent, WA.
Any advice you’d like to give other homebrewers?
Take care of your yeast. Get an accurate thermometer. Start out basing a lot of your recipes on others that you know have been successful, like the ones in Brewing Classic Styles. You don’t have to be a brewing drone, but you don’t have to re-invent the wheel either. Play around with splitting batches on different yeasts if you can. You’ll learn a lot and may find a few oddball strains you really like. That’s how my love affair with Wyeast 3711 French Saison started.
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’m a big Philadelphia Eagles fan. I’d sit down with Donovan McNabb and ask him to fund my brewpub. We would drink Firestone Walker Sucaba 2012 on cask. We would eat corn dogs. It would be magical.
If you were omnipotent, what would you do to right the beer universe?
I’d double the average brewer’s salary. Brewers are wildly underpaid.
Any closing thoughts?
I don’t know if I have anything really profound. I’m mostly thinking about eating corn dogs with Donovan McNabb now.
*** Cicerone ***
We see that you are a Certified Cicerone.
Have you been able to use this certification?
I think I have to some degree. It certainly didn’t hurt in getting my foot into the brewing game. It’s also allowed me to meet some fun people.
Has it helped you in brewing and/or competitions?
It’s definitely helped me judge competitions. I’d be hard pressed to say it helped my brewing. My drive to be a better brewer and become a Cicerone all come from the same place.
Would you recommend obtaining this certification and to whom (casual brewer, industry, man/woman off the street, etc)?
Yes. I think the off-flavor knowledge and general beer handling info are very helpful for any number of situations. The average guy off the street is maybe going a little far, but I would highly recommend it for anybody working even remotely in the industry or with a passion for beer.
*** Personal ***
Favorite domestic beer?
Any IPA from Pizza Port.
Favorite imported beer?
Weihenstephaner Original Premium Munich Helles
Favorite beer and food pairing?
Cheddars and IPAs are still always a wonderful thing for me. A good Stilton is fun to drink with a wide swath of beers too.
I am engaged to be married in March. I already have the 20×20 monster truck bouncy castle reserved.
In the kitchen I make a mean… (beer related).
My cooking could rarely qualify as mean, but lately I have really enjoyed hamburgers with Stilton crumbles on top.