Come See What's Brewing
Consider yourself warned: reading this column could make you thirsty for a "cold one."
Over the course of a year, Phil Verne brews about a dozen styles of beer.
"In March, I'm brewing an Irish-style stout in honor of St. Patrick's Day and my wife's Irish ancestry," says Phil, general manager of Moerman (formerly MTM Industries) a Milford, Conn.-based OEM supplier of floor squeegees to the cleaning industry.
Phil brewed his first batch of beer in 1977, when he came home from Europe with an appreciation for European-style beer.
"You could buy European beer here in the U.S., but it was really expensive," he says. "So I (decided to) brew my own."
In the early 1990s, he got more serious about home brewing. Now, one Sunday each month, Phil brews the beer in his garage. He starts at five o'clock in the morning, and the process takes a few hours. Each batch makes five gallons of beer that after fermenting gets transferred to a keg for consumption. In the past, Phil used bottles, but that meant 50 bottles per batch to be hand washed, sanitized and filled with a siphon tube. The one keg is much simpler.
Beer is made with water, grain, hops and yeast. Different styles of beer will call for different varieties of these ingredients.
"Sometimes I'll take a basic recipe and will experiment by adding different yeasts," says Phil. "The chemistry is technical, but the process isn't complicated."
For example, during the holiday season, Phil made a special holiday brew by adding cinnamon sticks, orange zest and fresh ginger to a recipe.
"I was skeptical about how it would taste, but it turned out quite good and my friends who came over to drink the beer were happy with it," he says.
Phil's favorite is a Belgian-style beer, which is typically a smooth ale with a fruity aroma. Belgian beers also have a nice head of foam that will leave a ring of lacing around the glass (known as Belgian Lace).
While Phil's beer is fermenting (that is, turning into alcohol) it stays in the container for one to three weeks, depending on the style of the beer. Phil is careful to control the temperature during fermentation, as it's a critical step a brewer takes to attain a good flavor. Freshness is also important to the taste of beer.
"Unlike wine, age doesn't help beer," Phil says. "Beer goes bad faster, and is meant to be consumed fresh."
The proper glass can make a big difference in enjoying a beer, too. Phil suggests drinking certain beers out of a brandy snifter.
"Even drinking beer out of a plastic cup is better than drinking it out of a bottle," he says. "When you drink a beer out of a longneck bottle, you don't really get to enjoy what's inside. You miss the flavor nuances."
Since talking with Phil, I have abandoned my practice of drinking beer out of a bottle and switched to something more elegant Ñ I can definitely taste the difference.
Gretchen Roufs, an 18-year janitorial supply industry veteran, owns a marketing and public relations company in San Antonio. To suggest someone you think should be featured in “Freetime,” contact her at Gretchen@GretchenRoufs.com.
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