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In response to a plea for help posted on this blog a few weeks ago, Oak Parker Jeff Sobczynski reached out to lend a helping hand to fellow local brewer Roger Lupei, who had threatened to stop making beer unless he could start making brews he could be proud to drink.
Sobczynski is one of the most serious local brewers I’ve met; he has the gear, the know-how and the enthusiasm to turn out some excellent suds, and like so many beer makers I’ve met, he seems as excited about sharing information as he does sharing his brews.
Lupei had been concerned that something in our Oak Park water might have been the reason for his less than perfectly brewed products, but Sobczynski discouraged him from seeking another source for beer’s major ingredient. “Lake Michigan water has good mineral content,” he said, “and if you buy distilled water, you’re just going to have to add the minerals back in.”
Sobczynski, like most accomplished brewers, is a fanatic about cleanliness. With brewing, because you’re dealing with a fermented product, small amounts of unsavory bacteria can produce off-flavors that will wreck a whole batch.
Lupei commented, “When I’m making beer, I feel more like a janitor than a brewer, because it’s all about cleanliness.”
For this reason, Sobczynski recommends using food-grade hosing because regular rubber hose imparts flavors that can screw the brew. “Think about drinking water from a garden hose. You know what that tastes like, right,” asked Sobczynski rhetorically.
Sobczynski had several other helpful recommendations for us – for instance:
“Whirlfloc is absolutely essential for clear beer”
“After you’ve cooked the grains in the water, you have to chill it fast”
“Aerate your wort”
Now, If all these directives sound somewhat arcane, then perhaps you’ve never brewed.
If you’ve ever considered brewing, though, Sobczynski suggests that you start with a stout, a darker beer because the “tannins in a darker roast will hide lots of problems.”
Of course, the great thing about making beer is, you can drink the problems and learn something in the process.