In this blog series, we'll be interviewing some of the brewers from our homebrew club (and in the future from elsewhere) to give you an idea of what got them into brewing, what they're currently experimenting with and to hopefully inspire others to take the leap into brewing their own beer at home. The second blog in the series features Hereward Feldwick, but you can call him Woody.
How did you get into homebrewing? I got given a cider kit many years ago, and spent a while just doing big batches of bad turbo cider. I drifted away from homebrew for a while (terrible turbo cider is not terribly rewarding to make or drink) but got back into it about 18 months ago. I think it was an attempt to make elderberry wine that got me started again. The wine was terrible, and actually quite poisonous, but it rekindled the interest and I started to get into brewing again - but getting properly into beer this time.
"If you asked the guys at waterintobeer
Homebrew Club what my go-to style
is they’d probably just say ‘weird shit’"
Current Set up: I’ve got a pretty basic stove-top set up. I mash and boil in a 15L stock pot, then ferment in a fermenter in my bathroom, so one of my big limiting factors is not having any proper temperature control in my fermentation. My max boil size is about 12L which I think is a pretty good batch size – 5L is good for experiments but not nearly enough if it actually goes well, and a full 5 gallons is high risk if something goes wrong – although I do sometimes do big 23L batches as well if I’m doing something fairly safe & mainstream, using extract to make up the volume.
Best piece of homebrewing equipment you own: My best labour-saving device - although it is a bit of an extravagance - is a fancy immersion heater I use to control the temperature in my mash. It’s designed for cooking Sous Vide, to keep a water bath at a steady temperature, but works brilliantly for mashing, especially if you want to do a slightly fancy stepped mash or anything like that. You can even control it remotely, from your phone.
Dream setup: Everyone nowadays is getting fired up about Grainfathers and other high-end systems. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great - but because I’m still doing small batches in my kitchen, I feel like my next step is just to graduate to full-scale brewing, with a propane burner, and a shed to keep everything in.
That, and I’d love a keg system. Something to work towards, eh?
What's your 'go to' style?: I take a pretty inconsistent, scattergun approach – I don’t think I’ve ever done the same beer twice – but I’ve done a fairly decent line in approachable, everyday pale ales. In particular a Gamma Ray-style APA that came out really good, it is the one beer I actually did try to recreate a second time… (with a different grain bill, and completely different hops.)
I’ve done a few super experimental brews that have actually worked out really well - so if you asked the guys at Brew Club what my go-to style is they’d probably just say ‘weird shit’. The sour cola bottle gruit, flavoured with citrus and garden herbs was a big hit (until I got burgled and someone stole the last case of it); an elderflower turbo cider fermented with Voss Kviek came out clean, crisp and floral; smoked, oaked, ginger & chilli ‘bonfire’ ale; and my first attempt at brewing a beer fermented using yeast harvested from kefir was really pretty good. Experiments continue into kefir beer - although my latest batches have been high on funk and a little bit harder to love!
"I’m not the ultimate beer scene
edge-lord, I’m a journeyman
beer nerd at best."
What brews have you got planned in the next few months: I’ve got a kefir beer experiment waiting to be bottled, and a slightly strange continental pale ale (Maris Otter, wheat, oats, melanoidin; Hallertau Mittelfruh & Mosaic; Voss Kviek yeast) that I’ve just started. The change in seasons is going to influence my brewing plans - more saison, less pale ale - but I’m hoping to also recreate a mango-habanero IPA I made last year. I also want to try to make a dry or oatmeal stout for the first time.
Competitions entered/ placings: I entered my first comp last year - London Beer Con 2018. I didn’t get any awards but was very pleased with my marks: 30 for a garden herb & spice saison (too peppery, wrong category probably); and 35 for a Jaffa Cake stout (made with real Jaffa Cakes).
Favourite beer of all time: I’m always struggling to find a reason not to just drink The Kernel Dry Stout again. Such a consistently great beer.
What breweries do you feel have pushed the envelope? I’m not the ultimate beer scene edge-lord, I’m a journeyman beer nerd at best. Other folk at WIB Brew Club will have far edgier points of view than I. But for me: The Kernel set the bar and changed the game. Beavertown brought it from the fringes to the mainstream. And Wild Beer Co have opened my eyes to some of the freakier side of beercraft
What piece of advice would you give someone interested in starting homebrewing:
I hope you like washing up.
Oh, and don’t buy a bucket from a hardware store for a fermenter. Buy a fermenter ya eejit.
Oh, and under-prime if you’ve added fruit in secondary.
Oh, and elderberries can be poisonous.
Jesus I’ve made so many stupid mistakes.
Best thing about homebrewing: Cracking open the first bottle of a new batch - so much anticipation! Even though it’s not always what you wanted, or even if it’s 23L of toxic sludge destined only for the drain (surprisingly rare); that moment of unveiling is really exciting. And when it’s an absolute banger, you feel amazing.
And you get to re-live that ‘reveal’ so many times: the first time you taste it, and then for everyone you share it with. Brew Club is great for that.