CIBAS – Me and My Homebrewing.
I have been reminded that I brewed beer in college along with the wine previously mentioned. In a place not so far away and a long time ago we made beer from store bought extract and baker’s yeast. As young budding scientists this was probably more of a fun experiment than a serious brew. Remembering that this campus frond upon such things, we probably disguised this as a research endeavor. I would not brew again for 20 years.
Indianapolis in the late 80s and early 90s was a changing beer scene. Breweries and brewpubs were being started – with little fanfare compared with openings today. My life was also changing, I had moved from Indy’s Westside to the Broad Ripple area as I started a new job and started seeing my wife to be. In 1990, Indiana’s first brewpub, The Broad Ripple Brewpub, opened in the Broad Ripple neighborhood of Indianapolis. Unfortunately, I had moved from the Broad Ripple area to our present home ten miles north in 1989. Didn’t go back to Broad Ripple much for awhile and didn’t know about the pub. However, after work we hospital workers would head to the bar for a few beers. Nearby a brewpub, Wildcat Brewing Company, opened up so we would head there for fresh brewed beer. However despite our frequent patronage, six months later the brewpub closed (1998). From talking with other beer fans we were told of another brewpub that opened on the Northwest side of town, so still craving fresh brewed beer we would make the trip to Glaciers End Brewing Company. The beer was better and the crowd was a good bunch of beer drinkers. However, two weeks after my wife gave me a named seat at the bar and a fifty dollar gift certificate, the brewpub also ceased operations (1999). Where to go? What to do now? We would venture to the Broad Ripple Brewpub about once a month but the majority of our group lived north and wanted to stay close when we ventured out.
In 1999, I had to plan a large business meeting and a bar-restaurant-pool-hall named Chalkies was recommended to me. Nice pool tables, the food was excellent and the beer selection was incredible for its time and location. There were these great Belgian beers – Lambics, Strong Ales, Blondes, Flanders Red and Brown Ales, Dubbles, Triples, This became me and my department’s watering hole. This is where I met many fellow Beer Enthusiasts We enjoyed famous Belgian, English, German and other great European beer as well as one of the best domestic selections. It was here where CIBAS was formed. It was also here where I met brewers, bar owners, beer distributors, beer tourists, and many other beer centric people. Here I had dinner with Michael Jackson twice! Here, I also met a lot of homebrewers and many members of the FBI (Foam Blowers of Indiana). I enjoy being in the company of beer advocates. But, I realized that even though I had given lectures and talks on beers, I realized that I really did not know that much! – There was a whole lot more for me to learn.
Chalkies is also where I met Bill Friday, Indiana’s original ambassador of Homebrewing. We would talk beer, and homebrewing when he was here in Indy. Bill’s enthusiasm for beer and making beer steered me to a desire to brew again. I wanted to create the kinds of beer that I was now enjoying when I went out. His recommendation was to visit Anita at Great Fermentations. I was busy with work and young children at this time but whenever I got the urge to get brewing I would seek out Great Fermentations. Problem was that I could not find the place – It was supposed to be in a small shopping mall down the street from where I worked. I would ask but no one knew of the place in this mall. The one day with a homebrew catalog in my hand, I visited the Broad Ripple Brewpub for a beer and a bite to eat. I was talking about my desires to brew and my predicament of finding the local homebrew shop. When Tom S. who I knew from Chalkies told me that the shop moved and was now located directly across the street from where we were drinking! I should were my glasses more.
A short walk across the street started me on a great adventure – a favorite hobby and my major source or mental therapy. I really am not sure why I enjoy homebrewing so much. I am able to use my scientific and artistic energies at the same time to make good beer. I also enjoy the peace and independence when I brew.
Anita Johnson, Great Fermentations owner, was so helpful in getting me started with this brewing thing and I started brewing quite frequently then on. I then started sharing my beer with friends and neighbors. People started to requesting different brews and asking when they would be ready. My home water profile yields brown ales, porters and stouts easily without many adjustments. Darren Conner who now is the brewer and owner of Bier Brewery in Indianapolis was an employee at Great Fermentations at that time. Using his prior experience as a brewery assistant at Bloomington Brewing Company (Lennie’s), He would may suggestions for beer study and recipe “tweaks”. He enjoyed one of my Stouts (Fireplace Irish) and a Maris Otter based English Brown Ale. Anita was given a sample and told me I should enter this beer in The IN State Fair. Timidly, I entered this one beer and then attended the 2003 Brewer’s Cup event. Holy Shit! – This beer won its category and did well at the BOS table. This gave me and the people who liked my brews some validation. With the encouragement of my fans and the support of my family I started to brew more frequently and study homebrewing more. I joined the Foam Blowers of Indiana Indy’s major homebrew club. Now I was in the presence of many super experienced and knowledgeable brewers. Ron, Paul, Tom, Greg, Bill, Frank, ………many others………all gave me advice and were always available for help.
Then something special happened-
I dragged my wife Chris to the 2004 Indiana State Fair Brewer’s Cup mainly to demonstrate that there were other crazed homebrewers like myself. I won two first place awards and I think she was proud and I was glad to help the FBI with points towards the Homebrew club award. Then as the ceremony came to an end it was time to announce the Best in Show for homebrew. While chatting with other brewers I faintly heard Tom Stilabower announce – “and the winner for homebrew best of show goes to ….Mark Schiess form Carmel, Indiana for his Maris Brown Ale. I was shocked and don’t remember much but my friends congratulating me. The Southern Brown Ale named after my oldest daughter Maris had won BOS.
It gets better!
With this award you get to brew you recipe at the Broad Ripple Brewpubs 7bbl system and have it served there. What a great time I had there and people loved the beer. You are kinda nervous brewing at Indiana’s original and most famous brewpub. What if no one likes the brew? However with the guidance of Brewer Kevin Matalucci and owner John Hill all was well.
2004 Working at the Broad Ripple Brewpub
Won a bunch of awards at the 2005 IN State Fair Brewer’s Cup
Indiana State Fair Brewer’s Cup
My Homebrew labels from years past.
2003 – First place – Fireplace Irish Stout
2004 – BOS – Maris Brown Ale (SEB) and 2 first place awards
2005 – 2 first place awards, 3 second and 3 third place awards.
2006 – 2 first place awards, 2 second and 2 third place awards.
2007 – 2 first place awards, 2 third place awards
2008 – 1 first place award, 1 second place award (Monky Dunk – BDS)
2009 – 1 first place and 1 second place.
2010 – 1 first place and 1 second Place (Maris Brown 8)
Holy Shit! - I won the 2011 "Heavy Hydrometer" Award
This experience invigorated my brewing activities. I continue brewing frequently despite increased work and family demands. In 2003 I was invited to brew at Barley Island Brewing Company by owners Jeff and Linda Eaton and brewer Jon Lang for my Belgian Dark Strong Ale, Monky Dunk (Single White Friar) which was served at their pub, distributed in the Mid-west and entered in the GABF Pro-Am competition.
Brew at Barley Island Brewing with (L->R)
Jeff Eaton (owner), and Jon Lang and Mike Hess (Brewers)
Jon - with a better shirt!
Today, I am just a homebrewer with an appreciation for good beer. I usually brew in small batches of five gallons but I try to brew a large variety of styles each year. Brewing small allows for experimentation and if you have an off brew it’s no big loss. I also can do odd brews with for example - peppers, sweet potatoes, melons, spices, adjuncts and other ingredients that are not usually present in commercial beers. I work long, varying and stressful hours in a hospital. Home brewing provides me with relaxation and stress relief. Homebrewing also allows me to use skills I have gathered from other jobs I have had in the past. It is a good blend of art and science. Due to a past medical problem, I am not able to do many of the hobby activities that I used to do. Further, with this problem I am unable to eat as easily as I would like so the hobby of home brewing provides me with an activity that provides me with good beer that I can drink, enjoy and use for food!!
I belong to three homebrew clubs; the FBI (Foam Blowers of Indiana), the THC (Tippecanoe Homebrewers’ Circle) and the BHJ (Bloomington Hop Jockeys). With my work hours, I am unable to attend many meeting and I do not do any of these clubs justice in service. However these people, and most of the other persons, I have met through brewing are some of the nicest, smartest, and most interesting people I have encountered. Wherever I travel I try to enjoy a brewpub and meet the brewer(s) – They are always proud of their profession and the brews. I have learn allot just by talking with brew people. The more I learn and study about brewing the more I realize I do not know and need to study more. I have spent the last several years studying “beer color” and its’ relation to malt components. This turns out to be more complex then I wanted to know. I doubt this project will ever be finished.
Just a typical bozo who likes to make and drink beer. (Nice Shirt!) (Keg is Empty!)
I would like to be doing this again somewhere soon!