Profile: Ultimate Brewing.
Brewer: Trevor Fitzgerald
“Fact: beer is way difficult to make…
Reality: fuck facts”
The suburbs are a dismal place for a food writer—or really, anyone who has an obsession with food and beer. I don’t want to do this city v. subrubs thing but I grew up in the suburbs and honestly loved it for the most part. North Wales is home to me, and the suburbs surrounding it really aren’t so bad. But as far as things to eat and drink, it’s a little harder to live with.
And if you can part with your public transport, bikeable distances and plethora of good taprooms, it’s kind of nice—especially on a Sunday afternoon and especially when it involves a day of drinking and making beer.
I took a drive out into Norristown (not the city of Norristown, a quiet suburb that shares the same mailing address) to watch a friend of mine brew his own beer. Trevor Fitzgerald is an acquaintance of mine, a home brewer, and a handy one at that.
Upon arrival, I walked up the driveway to find a keg, a cooler, and a ladder—all rigged in such a way that was apparently going to make beer (I can’t say that I could have guessed how right away). I had never really watched someone brew beer start to finish, and I had already missed some of the process but it was a little unexpected nonetheless.
Apparently, they were going to put a pot of boiling water onto this ladder and using some tubing, literally suck the boiling water through the tube until it flowed readily so that they could pull the saccharides out of a cooler that had been converted into a mash tun.
They mashed in Pale Malt, Cara Pils Malt, and some Crystal Malt, total of 12.75 lbs, in a single infusion mash for 60 minutes.
The mash smelled mostly like fresh oats and hay. Everyone liked the smell. It was a weird sentimental smell that’s a little barn-yard but warm and comforting to me. It smelled like what the beginning of beer ought to smell like—how true that statement is, I couldn’t really tell you. But it smelled warm and tasty to me.
In between this boil and the next, Trevor pulled out a some chocolate stout he had brewed. He handed me a cold glass and poured the beer. The chocolate stout had a nice tan head and smelled a little nutty. It was roasty and sweet but it was also surprisingly crisp and didn’t linger very long. As far as stouts go, it was one of the more drinkable stouts I had tasted in some time.
The next boil included a lot more drinking and smelling. They hauled the keg on top of a burner and we sat on his porch and drank while he added different hops at different times. I had to email Trevor for the logistics of this…
“[We] boiled for another 60 minutes and added 2 oz of Chinook for bittering; Amarillo, Chinook, and Centennial hops for aroma. The specific gravity came to about 1.066. IBU came to about 90 ish.”
I also got to try unfermented beer for the first time. The sugar is overwhelming, but once you can get past it you can get a peek at what the beer will eventually taste like. The recipe we were working on was way bitter but pleasantly acidic and clean–the color a deep and attractive gold to almost amber.
This was my first time actually watching a home brew process-and I’m assuming it’ll be a unique experience. One of the cooler things about watching Trevor brew is that most of his equipment is hand-made. It’s ballsy—but maybe this sentiment comes from watching him suck boiling hot water through a tube. At the very least, we’ll call it dedicated.
He’s also very open to explaining what’s going on. If you’re new to homebrewing or like ultimate frisbee, I would really suggest taking a long Sunday drive into Norristown.
Trevor has been brewing since December and typically has brew days on Sundays. Quite often, he brews with a tight-knit group of friends who are often standing on top of ladders or drinking and watching others stand on top of ladder. The mentality is refreshing—a fuck-it-let’s-do-it and drink while we do just strikes a good chord with me.
You can check out his recipes and blog at Ultimate Brewing.
Do you brew? Email [email protected] and I’ll swing by for a brew day or a tasting.