Wednesday, June 26, 2013

1,000 batches & a homebrew shop later ...

Brett Mullin checks labels on kegs of homebrew
dropped off at his supply shop in Westmont. The
kegs were later delivered to the National
Homebrewers Conference in Philadelphia.
For Brett Mullin, the carboys in the garage of a home where he was helping redo a basement begged the question. 

What are those? 


From where, exactly? 

Home. Yes, you can make beer in your garage, the homeowner said. 

Impressed and curious, Brett, then barely past his 18th birthday, was hooked on the idea and decided to give making beer at home a shot.

With a kit given to him as tip by the homeowner, he turned out an IPA, augmenting the task with some additional equipment and supplies he picked up the next day at homebrew shop that has now since closed. 

"I started it at 11 o'clock at night. I didn't finish up until like 4 or 5 in the morning," he says.  

That was 11 years, a career change and 1,000 homebrew batches ago. "Ever since then, I've been brewing like crazy," he says. 

Beer, indeed, has become a dedicated pursuit for Brett, a guy who brews six days a week and teaches other people how to brew, as well. His past curiosity is now an occupation: Brew Your Own Bottle, the homebrew supply shop he opened after a chronic shoulder injury forced him out of carpentry work, just observed its third anniversary in business.

With the three-day National Homebrewers Conference kicking off in Philadelphia on Thursday, Brett's shop, like others around the region, has served as a drop-off spot for kegs of homebrew destined for serving at the conference.

Brett timed the brewing of his 1,000th batch to fall around his shop's anniversary. (Nine composition books filled with brew-day notes and details chronicle his years of beer-making, the diary of a malt activist, if you will.) 

"I did what's called a double-double," he says, explaining the 10-gallon for Batch 1,000. "You take your first mash, your first runnings from that and you mash that in another beer. You're basically making a very high alcohol, very malty kind of beer. It came out with an original gravity of 1.120. I figure it's going to finish out at 1.020 or 25, about 13.1% ABV."

Brett divided up the batch (made with 44 pounds of grain) so he could use different yeasts to ferment it: Two with British ale yeast, another with an Irish ale yeast. 

"It'll probably take two weeks to ferment out to, say, 025 or 030, and then over the next year, it'll keep dropping down a little bit at a time," he says. 

Not one to sit still, he's already thought of the next brew. For that, Brett's going back to his roots, an IPA. But after all the time he's been brewing, that IPA is one he has refined into what he expects from an India Pale Ale. Thus it's a nod to Heady Topper. His version was crafted through comparative sampling of the Vermont double IPA and his own creations.

"I think I have it pretty much nailed. It's perfect for me, and I'm probably going to brew that again because I only have 10 gallons left of it. It's one I always have on tap," he says.

And that very first IPA, that beginning beer? Brett still has some of it. Over the years, it has flavor-morphed from IPA to something like cream ale and doesn't score well on the test of time. 

"It's not a very good beer," he says. "It did not age well at all."

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