Welcome, this is the Michael Fairbrother beer passion web page, this page hasn't been maintained since 2010...  

I have been a member of Brew Free or Die homebrewing club for over 15 years, and I am a life time member of the American Homebrewers Association

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 the hobby 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!

Here's one of the best stories about why beer is a WONDERFUL thing!  In the spring of 2004, I was in Dallas on a business trip, as it turns out I was a block and a half away from the Gingerman Pub.  If you get to Dallas stop by it's a great beer bar!  On the third night of my business trip, the Gingerman was offering a Belgium Tasting.  I showed up early, didn't want to miss this.  The upstairs was still roped off, so I bought a beer at the bar.  Shortly afterwards they open the upstairs, and I grabbed a seat out on the back deck.  The waitress arrives shortly and I hand over the credit card and ask her to leave it open, as I am not going any where.  Short time later a couple are about to sit down, but choose instead to join me at the table I am sitting at.  We start talking about brewing and beer, they are local to the area, and I am clearly a fanatic. 

The Gingerman conducts these tastings every so often, had I been taking notes I might of been able to pay tribute to the gentleman doing the presentation.  They had cheese, salami, and those mini pickled and olives (like you see in Belgium), pitchers of water and dumping basins. No one at the tabled dumped a beer.  A total of 7 people were now at the table I was sitting at.  The tasting was a sell out, not a spare seat to be seen.  Two of the couples were real close, something about the two women being best friends.  So our table was having a great time, talking about beer and life.

Here's the beers, that were presented:

• Hoegaarden         • Ephermere
• De Koninck         • Affligem Dubbel
• Triple Karmeliet   • Maredsous (8)
• Duvel                   • Chimay

During the presentation I start offering additional details about some of the beers and breweries being presented that I have been to and the brewers who I have met.  The group at the table is having a blast.  At the end of the tasting, the Gingerman has a trivia contest.  I am not usually very good at trivia questions, however being it was my two favorite topics, beer and Belgium, I ended up answering all the questions.  I assisted everyone at the table until we all ended up with at least one beer glass, or a T-shirt.  I was happy with my T-shirt, until the grand prize was shown (a framed brewery map of Belgium).  I ended up winning the grand prize, so I gave away the T-shirt that I have won. 

As you will see shortly I collect beer signs, so I was quite happy,  I offer to by the table a round, Ian and his date decline, but the rest reluctantly agree.  We talk and enjoy each others company for the rest of the evening ordering more rounds and food.   I call it quits somewhere around midnight, tasting stopped some where around 8:30 PM, I am expecting a good size bar tab.  I say my good bye's, gather my sign and head down stairs to pay up.  To my surprise my entire tab was paid for.  The two couples that were friends had taken care of my tab.  In my book that's as cool as it gets.  I had a great night of entertainment, beer, food, and walked away with a framed map of Belgium.  My only cost was the $6 that I paid for my first drink.  So southern hospitality really does exist.

I built a bar in my basement for serving my award winning beverages.  I have won awards for beer,  mead, and wine.  I collect beer tap handles, and  beer signs.

Details on the bar, it's a five tap system, has a sink and ice machine (hardly ever use the ice machine).  That's a chest freezer with 1/4" oak plywood laminated to the out side, with liquid nails.  It's not worth it to drill a hole in the freezer to have external access to the C02 tanks, I learned this the hard way, but do have external tanks.  I now have a beer engine, haven't hooked it up yet.

I am big into collecting beer signs (preferably tin). 

In the room next door to the bar, I have my brewery.

Brew Session photo's taken by Scott Baker on April 10th 2004, where Scott, Todd and I brewed an Imperial IPA (batch #2) on my brew sculpture from Beer Beer More Beer.  The burners are 200,000 BTUs (each) which is plumbed off of the low pressure propane that my house runs on (furnace, hot water heater, cooking stove, and now brewery).  Above the system is a 6'x3' condensate hood, with exhaust fan.  Make up air is brought in via the "fan in the can" on the floor behind the brewery.  The brewery is 100% stainless steel with sanitary tri-clover clamp fittings.  It is a bit over the top for a home brewing system.  It has two digital temperature controllers which control the hot liquor and mash tun temps.  The pumps can be controlled by temperature or float switch.  The hot liquor tank has a convoluted coil of copper pipe that is used to raise the temperature of the mash, as wort the wort pump through the heat exchanger.  Beside the brewery, closest to the bar I have 2'x2' sink which is setup with a tri-clover fitting so I can use the sink with the CIP (clean in place) system that I have in cleaning the fermenter.

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.

The biggest single improvement to my brewing skills has been knowledge, followed by being able to control the process.  Seek knowledge and learn all you can about beer.  I have over 20 different books on brewing, and I am an avid reader of Zymurgy, Brew Your Own, and All about Beer.  I used to read the following beer magazines, until they became no more... Brewing Techniques, Beer Passion.  I have dreams of opening my own brewery someday. 

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.

I also built a few portable dispensing systems (aka jockey boxes). Quite handy for when going to events like NH's Homebrewers Jamboree also not a bad way to make some money on ebay.   How it works is you add ice, warm beer flows inside the stainless coils in the block of aluminum, transferring the cold into the beer and thus cold beer on draft.  Only draw back, the block of aluminum weighs about 60 pounds. 

August 2006:

  • I am was working on a business plan to open a small meadery, see Moonlight Meadery. It's been a dream for quite a number of years to enter the brewing world as a professional. While I don't think (yet) I can do this full time and continue to enjoy the same standards of living, I do think I can do this on a very small scale and cover the costs. The plan is to establish a meadery from which I can share my passion with the public.
  • September 2007:

  • Won Best of Show at New England Homebrewers Jamboree
  • November 2007:

  • Won the New England Regional Homebrew Competitions - Mead Maker of the Year
  • Asked to organize the Boston Beer Company & New England Patriots Homebrew Compeititon, which took place on January 26 2008, here's some photo's taken by Ron Senykoff.
  • January 2008: Asked to organize the Boston Region LongShot Homebrew Competition, took place on June 7th, 2008

    October 2008:

  • Organizer for the 3rd Annual New England Regional Homebrew Competition
  • Won the New England Regional Homebrew Competitions - Mead Maker of the Year, for the second year running.
  • Asked to organize the Samuel Adams Patriot Homebrew Compeititon, which is taking place on January 24 2009.
  • December 2008:

  • Elected president of Brew Free or Die for 2009.
  • January 2009:
  • Happy New Beers Eve
  • October 2009:
  • Filed paperwork with town to start the winery in my garage. Federal and State licenses still needed.
  • May 2010:
  • Moonlight Meadery a bonded winery, production has started!!!

  • Thanks for reading about my passion, if I can ever be of assistance please feel free to contact me, at fairbrother @ nhbrewers.com.