Congrats Bruce Kernodle - September 2013 Brewer of the Month!
Q: TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF...
I'm a retired computer engineer, 72 years old. I'm married to Kaye, my high school sweetheart, although we didn't get married until 25 years later. We live in Ruidoso, New Mexico, a little ski town at the southern end of the Rocky Mountains. How we wound up here is something of a story.
After working more than 25 years as an electronics engineer, I got the idea that we should take off and go cruising on a sailboat. I know that when you come home and tell your wife that you want to sell our house and all our stuff, and quit our jobs, and buy a sailboat, that your wife is likely to say "What?! Have you lost your mind?" But Kaye, who was working as a registered nurse at the hospital, said "OK. But I want to help pick out the boat."
So, we did buy a boat, sold our house and all our stuff, and sailed away. We left from San Diego and it took us a month to sail down the pacific coast to Cabo San Lucas. Then we spent the next two years sailing around Mexico, snorkeling and fishing in the clear water, visiting all the little villages and trying to learn Spanish. We ate real Mexican food and drank Pacifico ballenas.
After the low-key sailing life, both of us realized that we didn't want to go back into our old life. We remembered a little ski town in New Mexico that we had liked, and decided to come to Ruidoso for a while. After we got here, Kaye saw a little cabin resort for sale and she wanted us to buy it. I pointed out that we didn't know anything about the lodging business. But she wanted to try it, and I figured that since she had gone sailing with me, I should probably help her do it. So we did buy it, and ran it for 10 years. We both really enjoyed doing it. I was able to brew occasionally and even kegged some beers. We're still here 20 years later with our Golden Retriever, Annie.
Q: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN BREWING?
I have been brewing off and on since 1969. There was no Mr. Beer then and no home-brew stores. There was little brewing advice. It was before Alan Cranston's bill, and so it wasn't even legal. But my brother and I made beer in 5-gallon glass water bottles using cane sugar and Blue Ribbon Malt Extract from the grocery store. We lived in South Florida, so what we made definitely fermented hot and fast. The result sort of looked like beer and it was fizzy, but in retrospect it was pretty awful. But we didn't care. It was drinkable and it felt like beer. And we were very proud to have made it ourselves.
I went on from there to brew beer in the 70's, 80's, and 90's. By then we had local home-brew stores and could buy better ingredients and some actual brewers yeast. And out of all the batches, I managed to occasionally make a good ale, but was rarely able to repeat it reliably. And parts of the mashing, steeping, boiling process were a little like watching paint dry.
I might not have tried the Mr. Beer system, but my son had one and was really happy with it. So, earlier this year he gave me a Mr. Beer kit. I made a batch of American Ale, which turned out to be very good, and I was hooked.
Because of my engineering background, I couldn't resist keeping notes, recording temperatures, experimenting, etc. I even wrote a little C program that runs on a Raspberry Pi and includes all the Mr. Beer refills and ingredients and lets me combine them into new beers. My son thought that it was very nerdy, and so he named the program NerdBrew. I have enjoyed sharing the home-brews with my son, and we often compare notes.
I have made some beers that I really like in the Mr. Beer keg. One Frankenbrew that I made from American Ale and Classic American Light has been one of my favorites and I have made it five times and all were really good. Now I have several of the kegs and have a sort of pipeline going.
I like the fact that the keg fits in a simple ice chest which makes temperature control very easy. Temperature control is probably the one thing that was missing in my earlier attempts at brewing.
Q: What is your favorite beer?
I don't really have a favorite beer. I like brewpubs and when I go to one I always want to try all of their beers. I do have a couple of favorite styles: British and American pale ales, and Czech and German pilsners, And I like some of the dark beers like Guinness Stout, but I think of them as more after-dinner drinks; things to have when you might otherwise have an espresso or a coffee. And of course I have fond memories of the Pacifico.
Q: Who would you most like to share a beer with?
With my brother Mike. He lives on the east coast and I rarely see him. We should have a beer together and celebrate that first beer we made 45 years ago.