Searching for the line between "hobby" and "obsession"

I met John Palmer at Northern Brewer’s grand opening

I met John Palmer last weekend, author of How to Brew (2006), a seminal homebrewing text for many who have picked up the hobby in the last few years. John was at Northern Brewer’s new Minneapolis location for the last two days of their week-long grand opening celebration, giving presentations on a few different brewing topics and selling his books (I ended up buying the one he co-authored with Jamil Zainasheff called Brewing Classic Styles). In addition to speaking with John about how to best avoid and eliminate acetaldehyde, we discussed his move to L.A. from Michigan, quitting his job as an engineer last year to promote his books full-time and the hoops one must jump through to get a book published.

I was able to attend John’s session that afternoon on foam, specifically head retention. John explained all the factors that go into creating a nice sustainable head in beer and gave some suggestions as to how to ensure retention. He got very detailed into the chemistry of this and honestly he lost me for a good portion of it. I don’t think I was alone, however. Not many people had questions when he completed his presentation, so either I was in a room full of chemists or everyone else didn’t quite understand what he was talking about enough to ask informed questions.

I also attended another session earlier that morning put on by entrepreneur Kevin Welch, owner of Boom Island Brewing in Northeast Minneapolis. He is in the midst of his first year as a professional brewer, focusing exclusively on Belgian styles. Kevin had some interesting and informative things to say, but would always stop short if asked (admittedly, by me) about his processes in specific. For example, he mentioned something about adding yeast at three points in his process. Of course, two of these can be accounted for quite easily through initial fermentation and bottle-conditioning… but what’s the third instance? He doesn’t do sour beers so his statement couldn’t be perverted into adding bacteria during secondary fermentation… so what did he mean? He wouldn’t say. Also, I asked him specifically about what type of sugar he adds to his Belgo-IPA during fermentation to pump up the gravity and dry out the finish and he declined to comment on that as well. Very secretive. Sort of annoying when you consider he’s putting on a session at a homebrew shop. As a homebrewer, I’d like to try out his techniques five gallons at a time. Granted, I’d probably be exposing these practices of his to “the world” right here on my blog (and I’d be flattered to have that type of reach), so I guess I understand his hesitation… Still annoying.

Anyway, it was great to meet John and taste some delicious Boom Island brews (yes, their stuff was tasty, especially the dubbel). Good times.


One response

  1. Pingback: Osktoberfest « Barking Dog Beer

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