Member Profile: Steven Oliver

About Steven

Aside from enjoying one of Ontario’s many great craft beers and homebrewing, I am a general machinist apprentice for Linamar Manufacturing in Guelph. For the last 7 years, I have been part of a manufacturing group that launches new automotive manufacturing programs for Linamar within Guelph and around the world, including fixture and work holding builds and automation projects.

What other hobbies or interests do you have?

For much of my life, music has often been a part of who I am. If you wonder why I try to name my homebrew recipes after song titles, that’s probably why. From a young age I was continually involved in music, I started singing and playing recorder when I was in the 3rd grade but didn’t pursue music as regularly until I entered high school, but turning on the radio or flipping on a CD still kept me in tune for a long time. I like most styles of music aside from top 40, country and modern hip hop. I’ve played the sax and clarinet since I was 13 and picked up the guitar at 17 and currently play with the Guelph Concert Band. Other than that, video games are a hobby, but for most of us that seems to be true. PC master race of course, I really enjoy RPG’s like Dragon Quest and strategy games like Fire Emblem, Shadow Run and BattleTech. I also enjoy playing board games and table top games like the old BattleTech game from way back in the day, though I haven’t played it much in years and don’t own any boards or miniatures anymore. My fascination for big robots extends back to my childhood playing MechWarrior 3050 on the Sega Genesis and MechWarrior 3 on the computer, so I’m definitely a science fiction geek a little bit. Of course, I love to read too, currently on my second read through of The Wheel of Time while I await the 4th Stormlight Archives book.

What is your favourite type of beer to brew/drink?

I honestly don’t have a favourite style, but I’ve definitely broadened both my understanding and appreciation for the multitude of beer styles out there since I started homebrewing and joining True Grist. But if I had to pick, seasonally, I’d say Gose, Lambic’s and sours in the summer has become my favourite for a lighter drink, and Scotch Ale varieties pretty much any time. My go to beer is Shindig by Cowbell Brewing though, since there aren’t many commercial Gose available and often I just like a light, crisp beer without a face full of bittering hops or complexity.

What type of system do you brew on?

I currently use a 15 gallon Alfred’s kettle with a brew in a bag and an Anvil propane burner. I am looking at converting to a separate mash tun and smaller kettle system in the next few months and building a setup with a pump eventually. Space is limited in my small apartment, so I’ll be building something that doesn’t take up a lot of room and is mobile. I’ve considered building a stack system with a 10 gallon cooler mash tun and using a pump to transfer wort and can sparge.

What is your favourite recipe?

One of my recent brews actually. I’ve had some struggles with consistency but I’ve started making recipes that I know I’ll be refining into signature beers. I really like Belgian styles; Lambic’s and Golden’s are among my favourite beers to drink, European beers seem to be what I find myself going to a lot as far as styles. My entry for the SFBC Funks homebrew competition, my Hibiscus Saison with Brett is far and away one of the best beer’s that I’ve made to date. A nice floral aroma from the hops and Hibiscus, the Brett C gives it a nice fruity flavor.

What is the beer you wish you never brewed?

Probably my first beer, which wound up with hops getting racked into the bottles, because they got racked into the fermenter. It was just an utter disaster, I don’t even remember what style of beer it was. It tasted and smelled utterly awful though. Best not to remember it.

What do you wish to improve on in your brewing?

Definitely temperature control in fermentation has continually been something I need to improve on, I’ve been slacking on a proper fermentation fridge. That’s on my list before I build a new brewing setup.

Do you have any brewing tricks, or “hacks”?

Not really. One thing I’ve learned is that patience is important, and making good quality beer takes time and understanding what it is you want to achieve going into making a recipe. If you decide to brew wild beers, use a carboy and let it sit for as long as it needs. I let my Brett Saison sit for 3 months in the fermenter before bottling it and it was clear as day when I finally racked it to the bottling bucket. So it sat over the yeast cake a month longer, but it lifted the off flavours generated by Brett like THP, so I had a drinkable beer right out of the gate.

What is your philosophy on brewing and what advice would you give to new brewers?

Stick with small batch brewing and doing 1 gallon batches. I did about 5 or 6 1-gallon batches and most of them were OK, but I didn’t put in the effort to actually master the recipes I was using before jumping up to 5 gallons. That was a big mistake. Follow successful recipes, it doesn’t hurt to tinker with your beer and do more or less hop additions, a little more of certain grains over others and swapping yeast strains, a little bit of change can go a long way.

Your house is on fire. You have to grab one item. What is it and why?

Only one item? But I have two arms! Probably my clarinet, because my mother gave it to me and it was a wedding present to her from my father. Sentimental value wise, it’s about the only thing I own that is personal in nature.