About Mike

I didn’t get into craft beer & homebrewing until after I had four kids. I’m not saying they are the reason I drink, but I do know to relax with a beer when the rare opportunity presents itself. If I’m not currently thinking about homebrewing, I’m probably thinking about smoking some meat in my ugly drum smoker. Which means my guitar and drums are collecting more dust than I’d like.

I’ve been 20+ years in my job doing IT support at the University of Waterloo. My co-workers appreciate whenever they get to sample my latest batch. My amazing wife doesn’t yet have the same appreciation for beer (I’m working on it), but she gives me the freedom to chase all my hobbies.

  • Outdoors > Indoors
  • Dogs > Cats
  • Bottles > Kegs
  • Movies > Books
  • Night-Owl > Early-Bird
  • One Beer > Many Beers
  • Cottage Up North > Beach Down South
  • Classic Rock > Country
  • ChromeOS > MSwindows
  • DIY > Contractor
  • Anything > Politics

How did you get started in brewing?

As I began to explore local craft beer, I somehow stumbled across the idea of making my own. Being a hands-on type person, I knew this was something I wanted to get into. I researched online for a few months and was able to put together an all-grain system using equipment I already had available. My first 10 batches consisted of pre-milled all-grain recipe kits from OBK.

Where is your favourite place to have a beer?

I enjoy having a beer anywhere (alone or with friends), as long as I can put my feet up and have some time to relax. Ideally I’d be a cottage overlooking a lake, but since I don’t have a cottage I manage just fine on my front porch, back deck, sofa, etc.

What type of system do you brew on?

My system has seen many changes in just a few years. Currently I’m using a 15 gallon kettle, propane burner, converted cooler mash tun with a false bottom and a chugger pump. What started as a small gravity-fed system on the steps of my back deck has grown, moved into my garage (no more rain delays) and now includes a homemade brew stand, a temperature controlled freezer as my fermentation chamber and of course a stereo for music. I typically split each batch into 2 or 3 carboys, so I can experiment with different yeasts or dry hops.

What is your favourite recipe?

What I use for a malt bill for a lot of beers I brew is 2 parts Pilsner (or two row) and 1 part flaked wheat. I’ll tweak it every now and then to add in 10% Vienna, or some oats or something else. But it seems like a pretty good starting point for pale hop forward beers, and for mixed fermentations.

I think the other thing that’s common amongst the hop forward beers I brew is keeping hop additions to the last 15 minutes and later.

Complete the following sentence:

Good beer requires good ingredients.

Cambridge’s hard water was causing issues with many of my beers. I now use reverse osmosis water and build a water profile to match whatever beer style I’m brewing.

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

I typically prefer ales over lagers, darker beer over lighter, lower abv over higher. I enjoy trying anything, but I always seem to revert back to the classic styles over the fruit / sour / hazy / wild styles. I try to have a variety of beer styles in the fridge, because my preference can change from one day to the next.

What beer are you most proud of?

Brewing my smoked lager (Do The Smokey Pokey) was a lot of fun and was certainly one of my more successful beers. This beer used home-smoked malt and involved a double decoction mash. Even after a year, it hadn’t developed any off flavours and still tasted great. This beer won the clubs True Brewer competition in 2018, allowing me to brew it with the gang at Rhythm & Brews Brewing.

Do the Smokey Pokey

Do you have any brew day rituals?

Not by choice, but I always have to spend about 30 minutes clearing out space in my garage and returning everything afterward. I have four kids, so there is a lot of stuff stored in my garage, leaving minimal space for brewing equipment. I used to have a brewday T-shirt, but that started out as a coincidence, rather than a conscious choice.

What do you wish to improve on in your brewing?

Cleaning (because I hate it) and organization/storage (because I have limited space) are two areas where I need to make improvements. I predict a keg/carboy cleaning system will be my next DIY project. Without proper organization, I have in the past accidentally bottled half a batch into unclean bottles.

How do you feel about competitive homebrewing?

I didn’t start entering competitions until after a couple years of homebrewing. My goal was simply to get “expert” opinions on my beers. I’m now entering fewer comps because the resulting comments and scores can vary so greatly. Variables like shipping/handling conditions, grouping with other styles and even its placement within a given flight all have an impact on the judges perception/evaluation.

Would you ever like brewing to be more than a hobby?

Getting paid to do something I love… sign me up! But realistically, I like the freedom to experiment and brew whatever I want, whenever I want. I wouldn’t want the business side of a brewery to take away from the pleasure I get from homebrewing.

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

Keep your equipment and process simple until you have the basics down. You don’t need a fancy system to make great beer. After a few batches you will begin to learn where you can prioritize improvements. Then you can slowly begin to buy equipment based on your “needs” not “wants”. To this day, one of my best upgrades was buying a simple instant-read thermometer.