Member Profile: Paul Byron

Paul researching for the next batch

How did you get started brewing?

As a financially strapped university student, I bought a can of malt extract. It came as a “kit” and included cheap, way-past-due bread yeast. It was barely drinkable but I was fascinated with the process and convinced I could brew something better. Thus began a very rewarding journey of continuous improvement (and a never-ending series of equipment upgrades and ingredient tinkering 😊).

What is your reason for joining True Grist?

I was one of the first handful of amateur brewers who came to True Grist when another local club wrapped up. I use the club primarily as a go-to resource for questions and advice on all things brewing. I also find the meetings and events excellent for meeting other local brewers, hearing from experts on various trends/topics and swapping stories.

What aspect of craft beer most interests you?

The Canadian beer industry used to be stagnant and boring; not much going on and with a bad reputation. Now it is much more alive- diverse brewers (pros and amateurs) being creative with styles and ingredients and pushing the sensory envelope in new and innovative ways to meet ever-changing tastes. It is great to see the beer-scene exploding and modernizing and now appealing to so many people.

What type of system do you brew on?

I currently do 10 gallon, all-grain brews indoors on a three vessel, electric HERMS system. I ferment in a stainless conical (using a glycol chiller), keg 90% of my beers and serve from DIY keezers.

Paul’s electric brewery in his home in Guelph

Fill in the blank: Good beer requires patience.

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

I have a three tap keezer. A bit old school… but I always have an IPA on tap. Seasonally I will have a stout, a porter, a pil or lager. The third tap is for experiments.

One of Paul’s DIY keezers!

What is the beer you wish you never brewed?

Once, I made a 10g batch of a beer that I called “Catch All” because it was basically me putting a bunch of leftover part bags of grain and hops together in a recipe. The beer wouldn’t fall into any style or category type. My most generous beer critics would taste it and call it “interesting”. No one ever wanted a second pint.

Paul, with his wife and beer critic Lise

Do you have any brewday rituals?

It might not be a ritual but I hate brewing in a rush (that’s when I make mistakes) and I’m a stickler for a squeaky-clean brewery when I’m done so I always set the full day aside when I’m brewing. It also means I can have a couple of pints during clean-up.

What do you wish to improve on in your brewing?

I recently added a glycol chiller to the brewery. Now that I can very accurately control my fermentation temperatures, I’m brewing pils and lagers trying to zero in on good clean flavours true to style.

Do you have any tips for success in homebrew competitions?

Judges are not just looking for great tasting beer. To medal in a competition, your beer must be great according to the style guidelines. Feedback from competitions is very valuable to tweaking your process/recipe and getting it even closer to a perfect representation of the style you’re after.

How do you feel about competitive homebrewing?

I don’t often enter competitions. Generally, I try to stay within the style guidelines but I prefer to brew beers that I like and I know my friends like which sometimes takes me off style. However, I really admire brewers who hone their process/recipes to the point where they medal. It truly shows they are among the best brewers.

What other hobbies or interests do you have?

We have a summer property in northern Ontario and spend as much time as we can there, doing the typical cottage stuff. I also collect and do minor repairs on antique watches and clocks.

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

I am an amateur hobbyist brewer, so brewing must be fun. A realistic goal, for me, is to turn out a good product that I’m proud of. I do have perfection in mind and this is what leads to the never-ending list of improvements, changes and learning (the so-called “rabbit hole”) but brewing remains fun. The best advice I can give new brewers is get started, learn from others in the club, be open to feedback, ideas and changes, and enjoy your creations. The journey, in my case, hasn’t just been fun it has been very rewarding.