Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Brew Crew - HomebrewandChemistry

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 them questions and posting their answers on a weekly basis.

We now go to the upper midwest and visit with The Scientist Eric @ HomebrewandChemistry. He loves science, teaching and combining homebrew and chemistry and Cascades in his pale ale. Visit his site HomebrewandChemistry and learn to learn more about chemistry and brewing. A Cascade cheers to Eric and welcome to the Brew Crew!

1) When/Why did you start brewing?
I started when I was a graduate student in 1996. At this time I had developed a taste for good beer thanks to Summit Extra Pale Ale (from a Summit Brewing in St. Paul, MN). I wanted to make good beer. I wanted to make good beer. I took a hiatus from brewing for about 4 years during a second stint in grad school (time was too valuable since I was now married). I started again with renewed vigor in 2006.

2) When/Why did you start blogging?
I started blogging because, like many bloggers, I felt like the world needed to hear what I know and think. When this delusion faded, i decided to blog because it amuses me. My blog is a rather eclectic mix of beer brewing, chemistry education and brewing science. By doing this blog, i have forced myself to learn a lot more about the science of brewing and brewing in general. On the chemistry education side of things, since I teach in a very small department (2 total chem. Profs) my blog helps me expand my network of colleagues to the world. Oh, and I'm a nerd.

3) What/Why is your favorite recipe/style to brew?
I LOVE American Pale Ales. That is the first style of beer I ever fell in love with. My favorite recipe is called Metathesis Pale Ale. The name is derived from a class of Organic chemical reactions (see I'm a nerd). This is simple beer, but the excessive Cascade hops makes it great.

4) What is your favorite brewing technique to use?
I've recently adopted the Brew Your Own Magazine method for partial mashing. I've not tasted the results of this yet, but it seems to have worked.

5) Does your scientific background give you an advantage to brew better beer?
I don't think it gives me an advantage. Brewing techniques have been worked out for centuries. In general, there's not much a home brewer can improve on. However, I think i appreciate what is happening on a totally different level. One does not need to know what is happening chemically during the brewing process to make good beer, but for me as a chemist it makes it a lot more fun.

6) What brewing technique do you want to learn next? (mashing, hopback, kegging etc. maybe one you've created)
My next major technique is going to be kegging. I plan on building a wet bar in my basement this summer and I will be installing a tap. My only problem is deciding if I should install 2 or 3 taps.

7) Do you brew self-sustainably and/or organically? Explain?
I don't I don't feel compelling reason to brew organically. I do compost all of my spent grains and hops, and I minimize unnecessary water usage (i.e for chilling).

8) What is your favorite blog(s) to read? (Doesn't have to be beer related)
This is tough to do without slighting someone. There are a lot of great blogs out there. I follow about 80 of them using an RSS reader. I regularly read about 20 of those. My top 5 are:

These cover everything from chemistry to beer to homeopathic medicine.

9) Are you a member of a homebrewing club or American Homebrew Association?
No, but I'd love to organize something, but family and work consume all of my time.

10) What is your favorite brewery(s) or beers to patronize?
Schell's brewery is #1. It's a local brewery (2nd oldest family owned brewery in the USA) and so I'm loyal to that. However, I also love almost anything from Rogue. Sadly, the cost of their beer has jumped to almost $5 for a 22oz bottle.

11) Do you find it hard to not reference brewing while teaching?
Yes, very. I've bemoaned this fact on my blog a number of times. I have to be sensitive to the fact that talking about beer and brewing will be unjustly interpreted by some as condoning something like binge drinking. Yet, I have discussed brewing in my classes when there is a legitimate and verifiable connection to what we are discussing in class.

12)In detail: What is your favorite reaction in brewing?
Easy. The isomerization of alpha acids in hops to iso-alpha acids (i.e. humulone to isohumulone) during the boil. This is one of the first reactions I came across that was related to brewing. It's been my favorite ever since.

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