Welcome to our Mashup Monday Spotlight Series, where we feature up-and-coming brewers from around the world. It’s been a hot and busy summer and we hope you’ve all been experiencing some great new brews from all around. This week’s spotlight homebrewer is Craig Tamble, who, as a molecular scientist, has some great and unique insight into his brewing world. We hope enjoy his story and keep sending us your own! Cheers!
What is your name and where are you from?
*taps mic* Hello, my name is Craig Tamble and I just moved away from beertiful San Diego, California to the Massachusetts country side.
How long have you been homebrewing?
About 2 years, so I’m relatively new, but I brew at least once a month and according to BeerSmith, I’ve done over 24 different beers to date.
When did you know you wanted to brew your own beer?
I came across a recipe online for ginger beer one night, realized I had everything to make it, and brewed up a batch because I wanted to make better Moscow mules. Before I even tried it I started ordering everything I needed to jump right in to all-grain brewing and never looked back. The ginger beer was excellent by the way (sadly I can’t remember the site I used). I’d been fermenting many other things prior to beer (sauerkraut, kimchi, sourdough starters) and making my own limoncello using Everclear, but fermenting beer never occurred to me, well it occurred to me but living in San Diego at the time I started made it too easy to get all the great beer I needed.
We know brewing can be a hobby, but do you plan on making it a living?
I think almost everyone that homebrews thinks of jumping into it as a profession at some point and I’m no different. I’ve had people offer to pay me to make them beer, which is a nice compliment (and if anyone in the Federal Government [IRS/ATF/NSA] is reading this, I haven’t taken anyone up on this offer), but as of right now it’s just for fun so I can make beers I want to drink that aren’t necessarily out there on the market right now (like a rauchbier with star anise I made earlier this year, holy hell was that good, recipe is below). Though 5-10 years from now…something might be in the cards. I like the idea of opening up a small vegan brewpub that’ll serve great small run beers and also show people vegan food can be just as flavorful and unhealthy as food found on the standard American diet.
What are some of your long-term goals?
It’s as simple as becoming a better brewer and to start entering more competitions. Accolades from friends are great, but I always assume they’re just being nice about liking my beer so I keep brewing it and keep giving it to them, but the medals and ribbons I’ve won feel pretty damned good. My first medal was for a sour stout that took 2nd place in the specialty beer category at AFC 2015, which leads me into another long term goal: I’d love to get a bigger pipeline of sours going, and now I have a giant 2000 square foot unfinished basement to take advantage of…hello barrel program!
What are some of your favorite breweries/brewers?
In San Diego that was like trying to pick your favorite pet (it’s Higgins…sorry Spock) or child (n/a), but Modern Times quickly become one of my favorites. They started out slowly, but are now dropping monthly and seasonal beers that are absolutely killer and have way too many specialty releases. Keith, one of their brewers, is a great guy to follow on social media if you’re a fan of seeing random steps of a microbrewery’s brewing process and lots of random pics of dogs (@theveganbrewer on IG and Twitter).
Fall Brewing and Toolbox Brewing are newer to the scene too and have a solid array of beers that I really enjoy. Fall has an amazing Berliner Weisse and an Imperial Black Lager that I pretty much always ordered if I saw it on tap at a bar. And Toolbox does amazing things with brett and bacteria on many different styles of beer, they’re tucked away in a random industrial center (like so many breweries here), but I’d recommend anyone in the area go check them out. In Massachusetts I just went to Tree House Brewing the other week and holy hell can they make a good beer. I’m going to be drinking a lot of their stuff in the near future.
What style of beer do you find to be the toughest to brew? The easiest?
The toughest? I’d say making a good, well balanced sour. The time required to age (I still drink mine too young but they start tasting so good too soon!), keeping oxygen to a minimum so you don’t end up with acetic acid and acetone notes, having good levels of funk and sour that don’t drift too extreme in either direction…it seems like a simple set it and forget it beer, but there’s a good deal of effort that goes in to not only creating the recipe but executing it.
The easiest to make drinkable quickly is probably an IPA. Take a simple grain bill (90% 2 row, 7.5% biscuit malt, 2.5% honey malt) to an OG of ~1.065, bitter to 50 IBUs with magnum/warrior, toss in a bunch of flavorful/aromatic hops near the end of the boil, do a hopstand with even more hops, and then dry hop and you’ll cover up a lot of mistakes from upstream in your process, especially when using super clean ale yeasts. There’s a million and one ways to make a tasty IPA and I love that. It’s also the easiest to be able to experiment around with while still creating a very enjoyable beer, the number of new hop varietals makes mixing and matching so fun.
What are you currently brewing?
I’m working on 3 beers for the BrewUnited Challenge where you have to use a set 4 grains then 2 hops from a list of 6 to make different styles of beers. I’m doing a Traditional Bock (currently lagering and oh so delicious), a Blonde (currently fermenting and on the road to greatness), and an American Amber (recipe finalized, brew day next week). Then I’ve got a Trappist Single to brew for a hombrew club competition and an imperial lager dedicated to Jaromir Jagr called Jaromir Lagr that’ll be 6.8% ABV with 68 IBUs because why not.
Do you have recipe you are willing to share for other brewers?
Here’s a wonderful Anise Rauchbier that I absolutely loved. I made it for a workout group I was in (so not your typical beer nerd group) and everyone kept going back for more, so I took that as a good sign:
6lbs Smoked Malt (Weyermann Beechwood)
2lbs Munich Malt
2lbs German Pilsner Malt
1lbs Vienna Malt
4oz Carafa III
Dough in at 113 °F for 30 minutes (0.9 qt water/lb grain ratio). Infuse the mash slowly with boiling water while stirring gently to raise the temperature by about 2F per minute to 150F for a 30 minute rest. Infuse the mash again with boiling water to reach 162F for another 30 minute rest. Finally infuse the mash to reach 170F and start sparging.
90 minute boil
1.25oz Tettnang at 60min
0.25 oz of Hallertauer and Tettnag at 20min
1 whole star of anise at 15 min (removed at flameout)
1oz Hallertauer and 10 min
Cooled to 52F, pitched 2 packs of rehydrated Saflager 34/70
Followed Brulosopher’s lager method (http://brulosophy.com/methods/lager-method/)
During fermentation I took 2 whole star anise and added to 4oz of vodka to make a tincture. Ended up using ~1oz in the final 5 gallons to get the anise level to where I wanted it. The beer had a nice touch of malty sweetness and body at the end, assertive smoke flavor without being aggressive that the anise worked really well with. I’m already dreaming up more ways to play around with this Rauchbier base.
Brewing is a lot of trial and error. What was the biggest mistake you have made brewing?
Cold crashing without removing the blowoff tube is a great way to suck in a crap ton of Star San into your beer. It was pretty well stratified, so I just racked below the Star San, but man I felt stupid. Luckily that’s probably been the dumbest thing I’ve done so far. I spent way too much time reading about brewing and studying different techniques when I decided to start this whole brewing thing, plus having a laboratory background really helped make sure I didn’t do anything too stupid in the beginning, but the ideal gas law got me. I still spend way too much time reading about the brewing process, but it’s a fascinating subject that I love.
What is your current homebrew setup? (i.e. 5 gallon, 10 gallon, All-Grain, Extract, etc.)
I’ve got a pretty simple 10 gallon all-grain system. A 15 gallon aluminum stock pot for heating water and boiling wort, two different chest coolers for mashing (depending on batch size) with a copper manifold for mashing, I do batch sparging so nothing fancy on that end. An upright freezer for use as a fermentation chamber that holds 4 6 gallon carboys at max capacity, a little 2 corny keg kegerator, and lots of kegs and bottles to fill with beer.
What would be your ideal brewhouse?
I’ve always loved the idea of getting an all electric system just so I can push giant buttons and watch liquid recirculate and not have to worry about running out of propane during a 7 hour boil. Get a few barrels for aging sours would be nice too so that I could pull off 5-10 gallons from them, make different blends, and then top them off with fresh wort. Having a freezer stocked with glycerol stocks of different brett strains would be wonderful to have too. In time I think I’ll get there.
Is there a brewery you would like to work for?
It’s not technically a brewery, but I’d love to live in some far off farm in Norway making tradition Norwegian farmhouse ales. But since that probably won’t happen, if anyone has some traditional kveik they want to share with me, I’m pretty sure I can find some juniper branches and brew it here.
Do you have a brewery name already chosen out? If so, what is it?
Right now I’m working under the name Van Brewin’ Boys. My friends and I are big Seinfeld nerds and took the name Van Buren Boys for our goony little squad, so it only felt right. I’ve brewed special beers for most of the guys in my group, which is always fun. But I’ll be changing the name soon, I’ve google searched it the best I could and it doesn’t look like it’s taken, so I’m keeping it under wraps until I make the official transition. Which sounds like I have some super awesome name, but I really don’t. It’s Wild Science Brewing Company. So hopefully now that moniker doesn’t get taken by another scientist who loves taking a hyper analytical approach to regular and wild brewed beers.
Any advice you would give to other up-and-coming brewers?
Whether you’re brewing now already or thinking about starting, the best thing you can do is to read about the process, read about everyone’s mistakes knowing full well you will make many of the same ones, and then keep reading even more about the process. It’s not difficult to follow instructions from pre-made kits and recipes you find online (either extract or all-grain), but there’s so much more to brewing than the recipe. Hell, 5 different people can use the same kit/recipe and make 5 pretty distinct beers and all of them will tell you they followed the recipe exactly the way it was written. That’s why understanding as much as you can about the process (why you do certain things, what changing X will do, what changing Y will do) will make you better at the craft. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy making beer from recipes where you simply follow instructions, but if you really want to make something that’s your own (even when it comes to following someone else’s recipe), knowing the science behind brewing is the best way to do that…says the molecular biologist.
If you want to have a spot on this weekly homebrew blog, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll help you get set up.