this is the Michael
Fairbrother beer passion web page, this page hasn't been maintained since 2010...
My home brewery can be seen in the "Brewing in New Hampshire (Images of America)", by Glenn A. Knoblock
So how did I become such a beer geek?
History: My great grandmother used to run a
"tea-room" during prohibition, and
my father tinkered around with home brewing back in the mid 70's. I still have the stoneware crock that my great grandmother used to
brew with. I
remember the day my father stopped brewing as we took the case of beer
to the town dump, as they were starting to explode. I got into
out of frugality, as you will see below this can no longer be supported
as why I now still brew.
I began homebrewing in May 1995, I bought the "Deluxe Beer Brewing kit" from beer-wine.com. It didn't take me long to find the American Homebrewers Association, and Brew Free or Die. I joined AHA and planned to attend my first BFD meeting in June 95. By the time the June meeting (6/10/95) took place I had brewed two different beers, both extract. I was blown away by the great beer and ciders that were being made. I bought a couple more carboys and by the end of June I had 3 beers brewing, and started a my first cider. I was hooked! Over the last 15 years I haven't missed more than a hand full of meetings. I have held numerous elected positions, for 2009 I am the club president.
The July meeting was a joint meeting between the Boston Wort Processors, and Brew Free or Die. Here is where I was introduced to cyser. Cyser is a mead (honey-wine), where instead of water to dilute the honey apple cider is used. It's heaven in a bottle. It was after this meeting that I got the notion to combine pineapple juice and honey (same proportions as in a cyser). It took a long time for this to become very enjoyable, it was something like 5 years.
Jim DiPalma (a long time BFD member, and incredible brewer) gave a presentation on all grain brewing to members of the club. It didn't take me long after that to start converting to all grain brewing. The first few batches were quite difficult as I was using one kettle for hot liquor tank and brew kettle. I had built a mash tun/lauter tun out of a 10 gallon Gott cooler. I would sparge into 5 gallon kegs, and then once the sparge was finished I would dump the wort into the kettle for brewing. As one who brews can imagine, this was nuts. One time as I was just starting to chill the wort, the pending rain storm started to downpour. I quickly grabbed my kids wading pool flipped it up side down and in one hand I was holding the pool over my head and over the brewery, while I finished brewing.
I eventually had enough equipment that I was able to setup a three tier brewing setup (using the different levels on the deck of the house). I can remember brewing in the dead of winter where the beer lines were freezing. To thaw the garden hose I had left out side, I coiled it into the washing machine and turned on the hot water, worked like a charm. Kurt Demmer, life long best friend and drinking buddy, and I brewed many batches together out side in all kinds of terrible weather. His apple pie cyser was one the best mead's I have ever tried.
It also didn't take long for me to convert from bottling beer, to kegging it. I first built a jockey box, using a lunch box cooler, and a coil of 1/4 inch copper tubing. How it works is the warm beer enter the coil and the coil is submerged in ice, as the beer travels in the tubing it becomes cold. My rational for kegging was I had one container to clean and sanitize compared to 48.
With in 4 years I had three 2 tier systems, with pumps. I never ended up brewing 3 batches at any one time, always just 2. I had the equipment. I likely have converted some 20 kegs into kettles over the years. Obtaining the kegs from scrap metal yards and the town dump (back when they allowed this). The town of Derry NH thought it was much more practical to sell the keg to be scrapped for salvage then to sell it to someone who was actually going to use it. I went to Merrimack Metals, bought some kegs that had rubber bottoms and exchanged them with the one at the town dump in Derry.
I am a BJCP recognized judge my hope is to become a National level judge, so I am taking the exam again December 2009. I have judged at numerous events over the last 15 years. Twice at the Sam Adams World Homebrew contest, couple times at the nationals (Las Vegas, Orlando, Cincinnati) a couple of times at the Boston Homebrew contest, and countless other events. I have also been known to flew down and judge with BURP at the Sprit of Free Beer contest.
I also enjoy organizing homebrew competitions, as it's a perfect blend of my professional skills and hobby interests. Having my first expierence with the 2008 Samuel Adams Patriot Homebrew Competition, then 2008 LongShot competition, the 3rd Annual New England Regional Homebrew Competition, and the list goes on.
Travel for Beer: You can't beat going to different areas of the world and learning first hand what the beer culture is like. I have been to Belgium, Germany, England, Scotland, Canada and of course many states. Having gone to Belgium 3 times, it's by far my current favorite place in the world to kick back and enjoy. I never leave home without first finding where the great beer bars, stores, etc. are located. This is part of the reason why I developed the "All-Things Beer Map". When traveling over seas, I usually pack a spare suite case along with a tape gun and bubble wrap. Don't leave Belgium empty handed, the beer, cheese, and chocolate are worth it. Though on the last trip since my suite case was over 60 Kilos (helps to be beefy enough to lug a 60 Kilo suite case around), it was over the weight limit. They were going to charge me $300 for the extra weight. So I removed the case of Cantillon (6 bottles of 750 ml each) and carried that with me on the plane. Talk about a pain try lugging a case of beer (no handles), along with laptop, cheese, etc. down the concourse.
The first year that I went to Belgium was quite the learning curve for how to pack beer for safe travel back home. Imagine the look on my face when I saw the suite case leaking as it came out on to the baggage conveyor. As we still had to clear customs, I wasn't about to open my suite case in the middle of the airport. So off I went towards customs with the trail of beer leaking out of the suite case. As luck would have it, I was told I was good to go. Later once home, I found that only 2 bottles had been broken.
||Back in 2000 I was able to get a
magnum bottle of Bush Millennium.
Only 2000 were made and each bottle shop ended up with only a small
number to sell. My beer drinking buddy and I were able to get all
three from one bottle shop. I ended up with one, which was
uncorked at a BFD meeting (photo to the left). I am known for
digging out the "good stuff" towards the end of a meeting.
Belgium beers are AWESOME!
||I also now use a couple of 24
gallon conical fermenters, this after years
of doing open fermentation's. One of the fermenter is temperature
controlled. They rock for being able to collect yeast, and
removal of trub.
Once I obtained my new system I donated my older systems (consisting of 3 3-tier brewing setups) to members of the Brew Free or Die club.
||With my sculpture, I have a very
fine level of control. As a result I am making the best beers that I
have ever brewed. A small amount of incentive when brewing
a 20 gallon batch, is brew something you like.
The 2004 Brew Free or Die Montreal bus trip was great fun. When asked at the border if I had anything to declare I mentioned I had a couple of bottles. These are Methuselah (6L) bottles of Unibroue. Pictured with Fin du monde, and Maudite, also have a third one of Trois Pistoles.
January 2008: Asked to organize the Boston Region LongShot Homebrew Competition, took place on June 7th, 2008