Meet the Homebruer: Josh Reyes

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If you’ve been to our Tasting Room on weekends recently, you may have noticed the occasional option to sign up for tours of our brewhouse. Though we’re working on relaunching an improved tour program in the near future, in the meantime Josh is able to parade a few interested folks around. Josh is one of our newer additions to The Bruery family, but he’s by no means new to beer and brewing.

When did you start homebrewing?

Much like many of our own Bruers, I started homebrewing in college.
More specifically, I learned that some of the guys in my fraternity were getting really into craft beer, and that one of the guys actually started homebrewing before he transferred over to UCLA. The first time I actually visited a craft brewery was coincidentally a fraternity conference hosted in San Diego, and some of us more-enlightened Kappa Sigs decided we would use our dinner time to visit Stone’s World Garden & Bistro and Ballast Point’s Scripps Ranch sites. Best decision ever.

I did a couple extract brews starting in 2011 with a small group of us, and after I graduated in 2012 and was back home (read: “funemployed”), I started all-grain brewing since I had full access to my parents’ kitchen. (Shout out to my frat brother Ian for introducing me to this great/addictive hobby/habit!)

How did you become interested in the hobby?

In college I worked in a biochemistry lab and I was always fascinated by the biological and molecular processes that result in God’s gift to mankind. After that first batch of extract Hef’, I wanted to know how to make something better and customize recipes with flavors like coffee, vanilla, chocolate, oranges, etc.; how little microorganisms like Saccharomyces metabolized and fermented sugars into ambrosia; how a poor college kid could make something more palatable than the racks of less interesting beers that usually littered one’s weekend haze. Homebrewing was a way for me to have my own little laboratory in the backyard/kitchen, and let me cut the cost of having to actually buy the kinds of beer I wanted to drink or give to my friends.

The other awesome part about homebrewing that I discovered was the numerous, exhaustive resources I found online for newbies just starting. I love the fact that any weekend homebrewer can make something as delicious and complex as offerings from the established big craft breweries in this industry, from the tools and equipment found in any local hardware store. (Orange HD buckets ’til I die!)

What’s in your carboy right now? 

Since my weekends are spent showing guests around the Frankenstein-lab that we call our Bruery brewhouse, I’ve been neglecting my own home brewery as of late. Right now my kegerator has a blood orange red ale (10B) and a Belgian dark strong ale (18E) on tap, but I’m desperately trying to kill either keg so I can make room for a keg of our Loakal Red!

Last Christmas I made an oatmeal stout with chicory for my girlfriend (even made some bottle labels using Photoshop), so I’m thinking I can try brewing that again around the holidays to have for the winter, or this chocolate porter that turned out really well and my friends and I killed within a week. Once I lock down a Cool Brewing insulated bag (or a cheaper method to control temperatures without having to spring for a ferm chamber), I definitely want to bug our own Bruers for tips on Saisons (or I suppose I can wait until it’s warm again).

What was your most glorious disaster?

Remember that chicory oatmeal stout I was talking about earlier? The one I ended up gifting to my girlfriend was the second attempt. My first attempt somehow got infected, and when it came time to bottle and I opened up my carboy, my nose got hit with a wave of rancid butter and death. Hoping to salvage what was made, I thieved a sample from the bottom to see if I could avoid the pellicles on top and at least have a smaller batch to bottle. The taste was something akin to the bitter tears of the recently orphaned, the broken dreams of failed start-up developers, death and a hint of coffee. This first “gift” met its demise in the sink drain.

Luckily I had brewed a stout the week previous that had a similar grain bill and was too lazy to bottle (I was going through my stout phase), so I was able to use this batch sitting in secondary, adding lactose and brewed chicory at bottling. Christmas was saved. Crises were averted.

Tell us about your most bragtastic moment as a homebrewer.

For my most recent birthday, my girlfriend (who by now is an enabler for my habits) sent me the parts and set-up to build a two-tap kegerator (the one I use now) a fortnight early so I could have something on tap for the actual day. I spent the next week scouring Craigslist and homebrew forums for the necessary refrigerator, Cornelius kegs, and respective build plans. Once that task was done, I spent the next couple days putting the damn thing together, staying up late so that I had enough time to “properly” force carbonate a keg with a good five day window.

When all was said, done, carbonated and chilled, I pulled the handle at midnight on my birthday for my first ever glass from the tap, put the glass to my lips, and drank. I was expecting the dark, roasty, toasted toffee sweetness of a stout, but was instead greeted with a different flavor. Sour. I made a sour stout that actually tasted like an amateur version of Tart of Darkness, but with less sour and more novice. I wasn’t disappointed so much as perplexed, and when my friends came by the next night to sample my concoction, they all ended up liking it. (One of whom is my neighbor and he came over on two subsequent, non-birthday-related days just to have more. True story.) We then ended up going to The Bruery, where I wasn’t yet an employee, and I was able to see what a pro sour stout should taste like.

In retrospect, I’m assuming that the infection in my home brewed stout was caused by me not properly sanitizing the vanilla beans I added in secondary, but thanks anyway, lacto!

Another really cool moment I had was when my buddy and occasional home brewing partner Shayne (obligatory: burn, you dirty Trojan) were in my backyard working on this black IPA. A couple days ago I saw a couple threads on Home Brew Talk and Beer Advocate about wort aeration, and some genius had used a plastic tee fitting and extra hose from kettle to carboy to jury rig a $2 aeration setup using the Venturi effect. I decided to try this method, although dubious were my buddy and I to the validity of this setup.

When I held the end of the siphon tube into my carboy and Shayne started the siphon, we were expecting a bunch of wasted wort to spill everywhere. Instead, we were met with the whistling scream of air getting sucked into the tee and fed into the wort. Better than our initial surprise was the sound of a vigorous fermentation just 6 hours after pitching the yeast.

Any advice for a new homebrewer?

The Internet has a close to infinite number of resources. Use it.

Always overpitch yeast. A little blow off is way better than having to wait for a delayed fermentation to start/finish or strained yeast.

Brew-in-a-bag (5 gal paint strainer with 13 gal pot)

Don’t buy it if you can build it. Other than the actual consumption of the finished product, a lot of the fun I have in homebrewing is in the myriad of ways anyone can build a great working “brewhouse” with just a little bit of creativity, a lot of elbow grease, and a quick trip or two to the hardware store or local yard sale. My “kettle” is a 13-gallon caldera that I bought from a carniceria!

Look up the Venturi effect. Try the trick with the plastic/metal tee. Aerate dat wort! Yeah science, b***h!

If you’re not a science geek now, you should be. Read as many books and articles on brewing and tasting beer.

Sanitize EVERYTHING! That 4 lb drum of PBW at your local brew shop that’s close to $50? Get it. Same goes for the gallon worth of iodophore or contact sanitizer. They’ll last for a year’s worth of homebrewing, and you’ll go through a lot.

I like to brew-in-a-bag (BIAB) for my beers that are lower in starting gravity (below 1.060 or 15P), so it’s a great way for someone making the transition from extract or partial mash into all grain.

Post written by Josh Reyes, our tour guide who found his love for beer while studying sciency things in college. Despite his short stature and potty mouth, he has a huge appreciation for beer and learning how it’s made. If his willingness to talk about himself, how often he works out, or his smooth baritone voice don’t win you over, his extensive bow tie collection will.

Read about the rest of our homebrewers on The Bruery staff in our Meet the Homebruer series:

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