My name is Harlan Carvey. Jay’s Customer – Guest blogger – and long time brewer.
Background: After attending military college in Virginia, and was commissioned into the United States Marine Corps, where I spent 8 years on active duty. During my time in the military and college I didn’t really drink, socially or otherwise. Now days I attribute this to a lack of variety and quality; due to the mass-produced beers dominating market share. As more styles and choices became available and my palate became more mature, I started to appreciate a good beer with friends. Then, about 2 years ago, I received a 5 gallon brewing kit as a gift and brewed my first batch of beer. I later purchased a smaller, 1 gallon equipment kit to dial in my skills as a home brewer. Everything sort of took off from there…
At first, like many new home brewers, I was following the instructions in the brew kit explicitly. As time went on, and recipes advanced, I grew more and more comfortable researching and tweaking my process. One thing that helped me was speaking with friends who were more experienced than I. One good example of a pro-tip that I learned was – When adding liquid malt extract(LME) to the hot brew kettle, pour it slow and stir it continually. This small tip ensures that the LME doesn’t sit on the bottom of the kettle and scorch. Being a new home brewer, this tip and the others like it, saved me from some really bad batches.
At first, like many new home brewers, I was following the instructions in the kit explicitly. From there, I got in contact with a friend of mine who’d been home brewing for a while, and got a lot of really good advice that you don’t often see…well…anywhere else. One example was, when adding liquid extract to the brew kettle, pour it slowly and stir it continually, so that it doesn’t sit on the bottom of the kettle and scorch. Being a new home brewer, I was now armed with some information that was going to help me greatly when it came to troubleshooting an ‘off’ beer, or perhaps even avoid the issue all together.
After a couple of kit recipes, I decided that many of the recipes were simply too light in body, and began researching online to learn how to add body to the beers I was making. I learned a couple of different options, but what I eventually settled on was a video I found that illustrates an easy way to do partial mashing using a cooler to maintain the water at the right temperature. As I do small 1 gallon batches, and don’t have a great deal of room for brewing, the methodology was pretty ideal for me.
Unlike some of the home brewers I followed over the past year or more, my interests haven’t been in cloning other recipes, but rather experimenting and developing my own recipes. Not long after I got started home brewing, I moved my recipes and tasting notes out of a notebook and put them online, starting my SmallBatchHomeBrewing blog (which I later renamed to “Mad Dawg Brewing”). Some have turned out okay, and others have turned out really well. Something I’ve really enjoyed over the past year is making fruit-forward IPAs, getting an aroma and flavor of fruit, using only hops. I found that a flavorful IPA doesn’t have to be overpoweringly bitter. I’ve had several beers that have turned out really well, through trying different additives (one of my favorite is fresh ginger) or hopping schedules, and documenting what works and what really hasn’t turned out all that well.
As you can likely see in my blog posts, I have mostly brewed ales. I’ve also made a couple of ciders for my daughter (she’s the cider drinker, not me), and with her input, I’ve been tweaking the recipes slightly each time, moving closer to something she likes. A while back, I made an Azacca IPA that a friend really liked, so I brewed the recipe again, adding White Labs Clarity Firm in order to make a gluten-reduced beer so that my friend’s wife could enjoy it, as well. I recently read Buhner’s excellent Sacred Healing and Herbal Beers, and very soon, I’m going to try a mead (I posted the recipe as Jillian mentioned that she was also going to try a mead…).
My personal taste in beers tends toward styles such as hefeweizens, Belgians, IPAs, and I’ve recently been enjoying a good gose now and again. While I usually go to the local Total Wine beverage store and build my own six pack, I’ve started seeing more goses and sour beers being available at local breweries; I enjoyed a glass of “The Father” coriander-lemon gose recently at Loudoun Brewing Company.
As I write posts for this blog, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on some of the beers I’ve tried, as well as things I’ve learned through small batch brewing.