Congrats RickBeer - January 2014 Brewer of the Month!

Q: TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF...rickbeer-at-niagara-fallslrg

As you can see by my picture I'm a fan of The University of Michigan Wolverines- GO BLUE! What you can't see in my picture is my rakishly handsome face. When Mr.Beer asked me to be Brewer of the Month, I initially declined – because I haven't bought Mr.Beer products in well over a year, and because I like the anonymity of the forum (no, my real name isn't RickBeer). I finally agreed when she said she wanted me to explain my journey into brewing and that I didn't have to do a nude pictorial (sorry to disappoint you). The $500 worth of Mr.Beer refills was also a great incentive, thanks Mr.Beer! The picture I provided shows me holding a Mr.Beer bottle over Niagara Falls.  Why this is important is because my wife and sons took a trip up there in early August and I brought some homebrew with us. We arrived and devoured a giant pizza and homebrew in our hotel room before heading out to see the light show at the Falls. The next day we ate a picnic lunch of leftover pizza and more homebrew. My homebrew was so good we didn't buy a beer in a restaurant. We live in Ann Arbor, Michigan and I'm currently writing this while we start to come out of the Polar Vortex (I truly think it is the Day After Tomorrow so the worst is yet to come). We live here because we enjoy having four seasons, including winter. I'm a Marketing consultant for business to consumer companies, mostly in the ecommerce and direct mail / catalog area. I work with companies ranging from very large to very small, and often have periods of time where I can sit and enjoy looking out my window and consuming a homebrew (as well as waiting for the next paying client). I'd much rather not have the time to enjoy the view and be booked solid though. I have a dry sense of humor, and sometimes that comes through on my forum contributions. For those of you that say it doesn't, no one asked you…

Q: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN BREWING?

18 months. I started brewing in a rather unorthodox way. My wife had been after me to find another hobby, one that I could do by myself, and that I could do into retirement, not that I'm close to retiring. I was always intrigued by beer brewing, but never followed up on learning more. Then in late January 2012, I saw that Woot.com had a Mr.Beer kit for $24.99 and decided to go for it. I got the kit and then several weeks later joined the Mr. Beer forum. I join user forums for nearly everything I'm interested in, finding them a great source of honest information. The more I read, the more I realized what I didn't know and didn't do anything. In the summer of 2012 I started reading some more on the forum, and got my first batch going at the end of June. I waited 20 days before bottling, but only 15 days before refrigerating. Needless to say, the West Coast Pale Ale (old Mr. Beer refill) wasn't so hot. And I realized that if I had a batch conditioning I didn't have any bottles for a second batch. So, I grabbed another kit - this time on Craigslist. My second batch was Bewitched Red Ale (old Mr.Beer refill) and it wasn't so hot either. Looking back on those, I realized that I fermented too warm, didn't wait long enough, poured the trub into the glass, and more. I grew very frustrated with waiting and then finding my beer wasn't very good, and realizing that I was limited on bottles which limited my beer brewing. My consumption pales in comparison to many on the forums (tops of 6 a week, normally 2 or 3), so I took the next step and placed my first order for refills plus two sets of 1/2 liter bottles (because I would NEVER get a bottle capper, glass bottles, etc.). Famous last words. While I had two batches going, Mr. Beer had a sale of the old Mr. Beer refills and I bought a bunch because the price was so good. Now I had a backlog of things to brew, and still hadn't made a great batch.  Well, between Winter Dark, Oktoberfest, and Bewitched Amber Ale I got hooked. I also decided that I did want to have more of an inventory and got into bottling - getting the equipment from my LHBS and the bottles from Craigslist (paying the deposit here in Michigan and getting over 20 cases from just 3 people).  In fact, I got so many bottles that I re-sold 1/2 of them By mid-2013 I had added steeped grains and LME to Mr.Beer refills, tried a non-Mr. Beer HME (Munton's), and was thinking about doing a recipe on my own - with bulk LME, steeped grains, and hops, and using my Mr.Beer inventory (I still have ½ dozen left). My first recipe was a clone of Moosedrool, and it came out excellent. I have since done Blue Moon and Mackinac Island Red, as well as the White House Honey Porter (just bottled) – all 5 gallon extract recipes split between two Mr.Beer fermenters. Next up is the White House Honey Ale and refilling my Moosedrool inventory. Right now I'm enjoying doing extract recipes, I don't currently plan to move to all grain but I didn't plan on bottling or doing extract recipes.

Q: WHAT ARE YOUR HOMEBREWING GOALS?

My goals in brewing are two-fold. First, to have a selection of beers at all times (I currently have 17), so that I can have patience to allow a brew to ferment for 3 weeks and then carbonate and condition for at least 4 weeks, if not longer. For those that know me, patience is not my middle name. But I've learned that not doing 3-4 (3 weeks fermenting and 4 weeks in bottles at room temp) yields beer that is not as good as beer that conditions longer. At a recent small family gathering, I had a grin ear to ear as my family went through 8 different types of my homebrew. My second goal is to learn more via forums and to share the knowledge that I have gained with others. I've found contributors to the forum my chief source of information as I've grown in this hobby, and have found that now others are looking to me for advice (yes, there are a few people in the world who seek out my knowledge, which shows you how bad off the world is). See, the dry sense of humor. I'd like to thank those I've learned from on the forum (long list unrolls and runs across the room), but there are too many to thank and I'd miss someone and they'd be ticked and we would never PM again… Seriously, I've been on forums for decades, including a long stint on a technology forum where I contributed over 30,000 posts. Yes, I needed to get a life, so I moved on. And I can't imagine I'll be contributing to this or any other beer forum for decades, but you never know. With the 25% ownership in Mr. Beer that they promised me for this contribution, I may be around. The key to me is that when you learn from others it's your obligation to teach that knowledge to someone else and give back – so I do.  If you've gained from my knowledge, please share that with others. One day you too could be Mr. Beer's Brewer of the Month, get to wear the crown and robes, get the $500 worth of product, be CEO for the day, 25% ownership of the company…  What? I don't get any of that? After writing this whole thing?  REALLY?  In the words of Roseanne Roseannadanna, "never mind".

Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BEER?

I don't have a favorite, but in general I like malty beers for myself and fruit beers for my wife (have to keep her happy so she doesn't drink my beers). I'm not into hoppy beers, on IPAs, but now and then like a bitter dark beer. When I have the chance, I order new beers at restaurants, but don't often frequent bars. I don't buy fancy craft beers for home consumption because I brew what I like. We used to drink Killian's at home and sometimes Sam Adams, but haven't bought anything in 18 months.

Q: WHO WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO SHARE A BEER WITH?

I'm not a beer groupie, so you won't see Palmer or someone else's name here. If I could sit down with anyone and share a beer, I think I'd like to sit down with  Marc Andreessen or Reid Hoffman. If fascinates me how these guys come up with ideas that then turn into huge businesses, sometimes with no revenues or profits, and they end up sitting on a pile of money. Or, Bill Gates, if he wanted to just sit and chat.