In many towns and cities across the country at the beginning of May, the AHA (American Homebrewers Association) celebrated National Homebrew Day with an event called Big Brew. During this event, homebrewers came out for some sunshine and warm weather to drink beer, talk beer, and make the stuff, too. This article is not a recap of events, as you kind of had to be there to experience that particular brand of homebrewing fun, but instead it is a little bit of shop talk with some of the folks that came out and had a great time brewing. I spoke with a pro-brewer with a homebrewing habit, a veteran homebrewing mom, and one of the founding members of Babes in Brewland. With a glass of lemon Randalled Hefe in hand, I walked over to the enclosed section of the parking lot of Santa Fe Brewing Company to see what the local homebrewers were making.
SFBC brewer and cellarman Leif Rotsaert seemed to be enjoying the sunny weather. He could have been fishing with the level of relaxation in his face. I asked him what he was working on and he casually remarked with a mustachioed Huck Finn grin, “a Wheat IPA and a Spelt IPA.”
Oddly, enough, it was his first time using his own mash/lauter tun homebrew set-up. Eight years of pro-brewing and he’d never needed one before. “Honestly, I’ve just been borrowing them,” Leif said. “I think I borrowed Nick Jones’ once. I had the system from here (SFBC). I would just hijack whatever lauter tun I could. At one point, I made one out of a bottling bucket and another bucket that I set on top, and I just poked a bunch of holes. But now this is pretty legit, dude! It’s a bucket, with a valve, and it has that mesh thing!”
NMDSBC: The false bottom? Beautiful! So tell me, what’s in your two brews?
Leif: So to try out this new mash/lauter, I wanted to make really simple beers, so I could figure out how to mash with this thing, because it’s a plastic bucket, right? So I have to get my temperature right, and the amount of grain, and there are so many different parameters, learning to work with this new equipment. I’m gonna just be brewing at my house, right? So the name of the game was to keep it simple, and so I have a single hop, which is Amarillo for both of them, and seven pounds of two-row grain in both of them. And the only difference is that one has wheat and one has spelt.
NMDSBC: Sounds like my kind of experiment.
Leif: And you know, my hop additions aren’t going to be the same … I have, like, two cans. I’m not weighing out certain amounts. I’m just gonna be like, oh, it’s boiling, throw a little in.
NMDSBC: And that’s the fun of homebrewing versus commercial, right?
Leif: Right! And if it wasn’t even for these guys (Babes in Brewland) here, melting their peaches, I wouldn’t even have taken a gravity, man. But now, if I do the gravity, then I can know where the line is on the kettle, and I can know my extraction on the thing … I’ll take a gravity a couple times, and then maybe I’ll stop. I’m not gonna go buy a hydrometer, let’s just say that. At my house, I will not have a hydrometer!
NMDSBC: That would be too precise.
Leif: You know, if your job is to be precise with beer, wouldn’t it be more fun, at your house, to just kind of ballpark it? Hope for the best?
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Just across the way, I met a homebrewing mother with some equipment that gave me some serious homebrewer’s envy. She was just adjusting the heat beneath her brew pot as I walked up.
NMDSBC: What’s your name and where are you from?
Maya: Maya Mirabal, and I’m from here in Santa Fe.
NMDSBC: So, Maya, what are you brewin?
Maya: IPA. I’m playing with an IPA recipe from the last three years.
NMDSBC: So you’ve been perfecting this for a while.
Maya: Changing it as I come across things and go, I don’t like this, or that.
NMDSBC: Nice. So what’s in this recipe?
Maya: So I’m doing a partial mash, so I’ve got an 80 grain. I’ve got a light DME (Dry Malt Extract), an amber, and a light liquid ME. Right now, I’m getting ready to boil. Almost there. Then I’m going to be doing a bittering hop of Galena, a Warrior for the flavor, and a Cascade for the aroma. I’ve been playing with this one for a while! I’ve done Citra. I’ve done Simcoe. I’ve done …
NMDSBC: How did the Simcoe work out for you?
Maya: I like it, but it’s a little too floral for me. My husband is my taste-board. I’ll ask, ‘Okay, what can I change? What is that flavor I’m missing?’
NMDSBC: That’s the way to do this, though. So you said you’ve been doing this for three years, right? How long have you been coming to Big Brew?
Maya: I’ve been coming to big brew for about four years now. I started doing Small Batch Saturdays and just kind of progressed from there.
NMDSBC: How many of those have you done?
Maya: I’ve just gotten to do a couple. My kids’ schedules don’t allow it. (Laughs)
NMDSBC: With kids, I imagine Saturdays can be tough!
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After another delicious pour of the Hefeweizen, which was squeezed through a chamber of fresh lemons, I also got around to chatting with Dana Kleinman of the Babes in Brewland, just as they were adding peaches to the secondary of their Peach Pale Ale.
NMDSBC: So, if you’d be so kind, can you tell our readers about the beer you’ve all been making?
Dana: This beer? So it is the second rendition of the Peach Pale Ale. It’s a very hoppy pale ale. It’s probably more like a Peach IPA, although the IPAs these days are even higher. So we’re at about 60 IBUs.
NMDSBC: That’s respectable.
Dana: Right around six-and-a-half-percent (ABV), and we brewed the base beer using a wide variety of hops. The first time we did it, we had all organic grain. This time it was a little more of a mixture, because we had to use what they had. And let’s see, for hops, we used Bravo, Citra, Simcoe, Amarillo, and Saaz. We did the Saaz and the Bravo early, and then later we put in the Citra and the Simcoe and the Amarillo, for more of the aroma. And picking up the Citra notes that are gonna be in the peach. So we brewed that and let that ferment for a couple weeks. And then now, we’re pasteurizing the peaches. And so we rack into the secondary and add the peaches and then it’ll sit on the peaches for four weeks.
NMDSBC: Excellent, well, I hope I can be there to see how it turns out. Thanks, again!
Dana: Thank you!
The beer should be ready and available at Santa Fe Brewing as the Small Batch Saturday beer towards the beginning of June, so we’ll speak to them again and keep you posted.
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I’ve said it before. I love talking with homebrewers, or anyone with a passion for beer, really. But I’ve never met a homebrewer who wouldn’t take a minute to talk hops or yeast strains with me. Before I’d joined the homebrew club in Santa Fe, I didn’t know people liked talking about beer. And thank the gods I discovered the Brew Crew soon after that. But, if you love making beer, or you’re curious about making your own beer, or just want to talk craft beer with others equally as excited about it, I highly suggest coming out to an event like Big Brew, or National Learn to Homebrew Day, another AHA sanctioned event, which is usually early in November. Join one of the local homebrew clubs in your area. They’re all over New Mexico and new ones are popping up like, well, breweries in Albuquerque. At the very least, just walk into your local homebrew supply shop. They’ll point you in the right direction. See you next year for Big Brew! Until then, keep reading the NM Dark Side Brew Crew for more homebrew stories and updates. Keep your hops fresh and your sanitizing hand strong.
For more #CraftBeer news and @nmdarksidebc info, follow me on Twitter @SantaFeCraftBro! And send any questions, comments, or Santa Fe related craft beer story ideas my way to SantaFeLuke@gmail.com.