Lindsay Stafford Mader 2015-04-25 06:09:02
In Recess An Austin attorney searches for the best brews in the bottom of his bucket and beyond. Pete Kennedy, a busy litigation and appellate attorney in Austin, didn’t have a hobby for most of his adult life. But about six years ago, he bought a homebrew kit as a gag gift for himself, and instead of disappearing into the back of a closet, the gear took on a prominent place in his life. He and a friend started brewing underneath a carport at Kennedy’s home—complete with a propane burner, large pot, siphoning tubes, and glass vessels—while they ferment, condition, and keg in his basement and bottle in the kitchen. The duo aimed to make beer that tasted better than what they could get at the store—and after experimenting and learning, they succeeded in creating some delicious libations. They now brew about 10 gallons a month and split the bounty. Kennedy has won several local homebrewing awards and shares his beer with friends, coworkers, and neighbors. He also tastes the best beers that other countries have to offer when traveling abroad, where he meanwhile has developed a love for hiking along old British and European footpaths to embrace the rolling green hills and talk with farmers and passersby. Brewing your own beer sounds like a lot of work (the American Homebrewers Association lists 23 steps on its beginner recipe). What is the trickiest part of the process—and why bother? Homebrewing stores sell everything you could possibly need, so it’s not that hard. It’s essential to sanitize everything that touches the wort [a fermentable sugar solution produced from the starch of malted barley]; “infected” beer can be a problem—unwanted bacteria gets into the beer and creates off-flavors. Well-made homebrew used to be better than anything you could buy in a store. Now, the satisfaction comes from doing it yourself—like cooking, gardening, or making stuff in your workshop. What is your ultimate goal when setting out to create an outstanding beer, and what are some of your favorite flavors? I’m a “hophead.” I like heavily hopped, bitter, and aromatic beers—IPAs, APAs, West Coast Pale Ales. But we brew all styles of ales, from stouts to blondes. Your homebrews have won several local awards, but I’d guess that some of your first-ever batches didn’t taste quite as good. Tell us about your best and worst recipes. Early on, I made a pecan porter that I thought would be a good Texas beer. But the recipe called for way too much “pecan extract,” and it was undrinkable. Our most memorable beer was an imperial rye IPA conditioned in a Garrison Brothers bourbon barrel. It pulled bourbon out of the wood, and we ended up with a very complex (and strong) beer. We’ve won awards with an imperial black rye IPA we called “Heisenberg” and a Citra-hopped blonde we called “Lannister Gold.” Your wife prefers wine over beer, and you have a brother who makes his own wine. What would you say to people who haven’t given craft beer a chance? We are living in the golden age of beer. There has never been—in the history of time—as much good beer as there is now. It’s Florence, Italy, in 1520. Don’t miss out. You search faraway countries for the best brews (while also doing a fair amount of hiking and cycling). What is the most memorable beer experience you’ve had abroad? The BeerTemple in Amsterdam and Against the Grain in Dublin. Both feature great lineups of U.S.-style craft beer, which, believe it or not, is more interesting and varied than most beer you can get in Europe, with maybe the exception of Belgian ales. Finding and drinking good beer gives you something in common to talk about with locals and other visitors, so I make a point of stopping at pubs when I travel. What is special about hiking through Britain? England, Wales, and Scotland have innumerable public footpaths that anyone can walk. The paths run along ancient rights of way, even old Roman roads. You can walk through farms and pastures without permission, so long as you stay on the path. It’s not wilderness like U.S. national parks, but the villages and countryside are beautiful. You currently produce homebrews on a small scale and aren’t interested in selling your beer. What about during retirement? My half-serious dream is to reopen a closed pub in an English or Irish village, set up a small brewing operation, and spend summers there and winters in Austin. The price of the first pint would be to tell a good story. By the time this issue is in readers’ hands, we’ll be approaching the dog days of Texas summer. What are your three favorite brews to cool off with? There are too many good beers to choose just three, but right now I have Hops & Grain’s Greenhouse IPA in my fridge. My brother, Doug in Houston, likes Southern Star’s Bombshell Blonde. If you prefer lagers, try Real Ale’s Hans’ Pils. If you’re adventurous, try anything made by Jester King, especially their limited releases. Drink local—the Texas craft beer scene is exploding. Why is homebrewing such an attractive way to spend your free time? I’m a bit of an introvert, so sharing a beer helps break the ice. And when it’s your own beer, it’s that much more satisfying. Not many hobbies end with something you get to share with people and sit down with them and have a laugh. In Kennedy’s basement, one batch of beer conditions in a bourbon barrel while another ferments in a glass carboy.
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