Let’s talk about home brewing! There’s a thriving community of home brewers right here in our backyard and in our own brewery. Brewce, our head brewer, started homebrewing back in 1996, and our brew master Ashton Lewis dove pint glass first into homebrews before that.
As a way of celebrating our homebrew roots, Springfield Brewing Company gets together each year with the Homebrew ZOO – The Zymurgists “Home Brewing Society” of the Ozarks, and along with a panel of judges, chooses one home brewed entry to recreate back at SBC. That limited-release beer becomes our entry at the 2017 Pro-Am competition held at the annual Great American Beer Festival. Pro-Am beers are collaboration brews made in commercial breweries based on award-winning homebrew recipes.
This year, John Huhn and his Fiddleback English Porter won the Best-of-Show at the ZOO’s (Zymurgists of the Ozarks) homebrew competition. John named the beer after the Fiddleback Brown Recluse that was hiding in his work boots and bit him while he was brewing this beer. It wasn’t until several hours later that John realized what had happened. By the time he felt the swelling and pain in his calf, he was chilling the wort and prepping his fermentation chamber. Luckily for John, a little pain and swelling was all he had to withstand. Naturally, this English Brown Porter with its nutty, roasty and chocolatey flavors is brewed in memory of that fiddleback. R.I.P.
Now here’s John with more information about Springfield’s home brew scene.
How did the Homebrew ZOO group get started
The Homebrew ZOO (The Zymurgists Of the Ozarks) Homebrewing Society was founded to promote home brewing and craft beer appreciation. We are a group of home brewers of all levels that meets monthly at The Home Brewery in Ozark to discuss beer and brewing, share experiences and, of course, sample homebrew. Each month, we focus on a style of beer, cider, and/or mead. The club is open to people who brew as well as people who enjoy beer. One does not have to be a brewer to join the club to enjoy the benefits.
What have been the most memorable (good or bad) beers that have come out of the group
We’ve seen everything from bottle bombs, to unintentionally sour beers. We also have had a couple of sensory educational sessions where we purposefully dosed beer to create flaws to help train on identifying faults in beer and learn how to fix the problems. Some of those dosed beers have been particularly undrinkable. A couple of outstanding beers do come to mind. Of course, the two previous club brews to win the ProAm, Keith Wallis’ 585 pale Ale and Chris Becker’s 100 Proof Imperial IPA come to mind as standouts.
What’s the worst beer you’ve brewed
Early in my homebrewing hobby, I had two straight batches of completely different beer (Irish Red Ale and Scottish 70 Shilling) turn out with an acrid-vinegary odor and taste. It was much too strong and made the beer undrinkable. It was a painful but valuable lesson to learn about the importance replacing hoses regularly and tightening up my sanitation practices.
How did you get started homebrewing
I became a fan of craft beer in the late ’90s shortly after the opening the Springfield Brewing Company. While there one evening, I discovered one of my colleagues was making his own beer at home. I began picking his brain about the process and was eventually invited to his house for a brew day. I was hooked from that day forward.
What was the hardest part to learn about home brewing
Patience. Making great beer takes time. Time for proper fermentation, time to let the beer condition properly, and time to learn how the process works. Making beer can be as easy or as detailed as you want it to be. I started out like most early brewers making beer from kits. As I learned more of the science behind wort production and fermentation, my skills progressed into making beer from grains and developing my own recipes. If I had to start over, the volume of knowledge I’ve gained over the years would seem daunting, but that knowledge was gained through patience.