Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Brew Crew - The Doghouse Brewery

What is the Brew Crew?
The Brew Crew is a celebration of the 1st and 21st Amendments of the United States. The right to "free speech" and to "homebrew". The Brew Crew is a legion of extract, partial mash and all-grain brewers who blog funny, witty and serious posts on a daily basis and not so daily basis. I will be asking these brewers a series of questions and posting their answers on a weekly basis.

This week we go to the upper northwest into the frigid tundra of Alaska. We visit with multi talented Christopher and his Dogyard Brewery. Christopher has a very informational website and do-it-yourself sections for many hobbies.

1) When/why did you start brewing and why is it called Dogyard Brewery?
I started brewing in 1990 while a student at UC Davis. My rommate and I struggled to brew beer in our 90 degree apartment, chilling the wort overnight in the bathtub. Since then, equipment and ingredients have come a long way. My wife is a sprint musher and we've currently got five sled dogs and one house dog, so Doghouse Brewery seemed like a good name.

2) When/Why did you start your website/blogging?
My first website was built in 1998, and I started blogging in 2005. I don't tend to write much about brewing in the blog, but I probably should put more in there. Most of my brewing information (recipes, equipment, etc.) is in a subdirectory of my main site.

3) What is your favorite recipe and/or style to brew?
My favorite is Piper's Irish American Red Ale, which is based on a recipe by Jeff Renner on HBD. I prefer ales, but haven't ever brewed a lager, so that will be a new homebrewing challenge for me in the future.

4) What is your favorite brewing technique to use?
I really like the convenience of batch sparging in an insulated cooler. It really makes mashing and sparging simple and easy to control even if there is a slight loss in efficiency.

5) What is your favorite piece of brewing equipment to use?
That's a hard one. My plate chiller is probably the most entertaining; it's amazing to watch boiling hot wort enter one end and come out the other end at 60-68 degrees. But I wouldn't want to do without my yeast stirplate, batch sparging set-up, or temperature controlled fermentation temperature. I think pitching a large amount of healthy yeast, and closely controlling fermentation temperature are really important for getting a beer without defects.

6) Of, all your hobbies which one is your favorite (homebrewing, coffee roasting etc.)
I enjoy variety in my hobbies more than preferring one over the other. Right now, brewing and woodworking are on the upswing, but I'm glad to have bookbinding, bread baking, and other hobbies as options when I tire on a focus on beer and furniture.

7) Do you brew self-sustainably and/or organically? Explain?
For awhile I was culturing my own yeast, and I could theoretically run my boil on our wood-burning cook-stove, but at the moment I'm not really brewing in the manner that could be described as self-sustainable. I do grind organic grains for baking bread, and I've been tempted to try malting my own wheat to see what sort of beer I could produce, but thus far I haven't tried. I am encouraged by the availability of organic grains, but as far as I know, my favorite base malt (Maris Otter) doesn't come this way. Maybe I'll have to try a sack of Breiss organic 2-row next time I'm ordering in bulk.

8) What is your favorite blog(s) to read?
Another hard question. I'm subscribed to several dozen blogs through Google Reader, and I enjoy the variety. I haven't done much beer blog reading, so I'm eager to start reading some of the blogs on your site.

9) Are you a member of a homebrewing club or American Homebrew Association?
I've been a member of the AHA for quite some time. I haven't participated in our local homebrew club.

10) What is your favorite brewery(s) to patronize?
Silver Gulch brewery in Fox has a great restaurant, and I've enjoyed their pilsner since they started their operation. When I lived in Portland, the Blue Moon Tavern and the Mission Theater were favorites of mine, even if they didn't brew on premises. Really, any and all brewpubs are worth a visit, and I try to hit any I can find when I am traveling.

11) It is difficult brewing in Alaskan weather (too cold, getting ingredients etc.)?
Fairbanks gets quite cold in the winter (we got to -53F at our house this winter), and so it can be difficult to brew when it's really cold. I once lost a quarter of my wort when the heat from my burner melted a hole in the snow it was resting on and the burner almost tipped over. I usually try to watch the forecast and only brew when it's above zero, but there have been times when I've brewed at -10 or colder. Recently, I've had trouble getting my chilled wort *warm* enough because the water running through the plate chiller is so close to freezing that it cools the wort too much even with the water pump on the lowest setting. I added a half a gallon of warm water to my latest batch after chilling, and I think that might be an effective technique to offset any inaccuracies in chilling.

12) Is there a style of homebrew or another hobby that you would like to learn next?
Lagering is certainly on my things to try. We've got an old fridge that was there when we moved into our house, so I might adopt that for a batch to see if I like it. Last weekend, I brewed my 76th beer, and not one has been a lager. Probably time to give it a whirl!

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