Riding in cars with John Palmer

Early into John Palmer's visit at Bitter & Esters this past Saturday, I was pouring grain into our mash tun while John was stirring and I suddenly thought, I'm brewing a beer with John Palmer! For weeks it's been emails and scheduling and getting things ready, and here I was, doughing in with the man who wrote How to Brew. It was a "Holy Crap" moment. I was fortunate enough to spend a good amount of time with John as he visited our fair city. Most of it was in cars going from event to event (nine in three days!). When John first walked into the store I was on the phone ordering pizza and like everyone else I've observed who meets him I was a bit star struck. John put me at ease right away. He is the nicest guy, very humble. Just a regular Joe who happened to write How to Brew, Water, has a great podcast about brewing and is a metallurgist who did work for the space station. You know, just a regular guy. Doug Palmer John   This was John's first visit to NYC in twenty years and his first since he became a home brew guru. It was fun watching people meet him. Adults with families and jobs would get tongue tied and starry eyed. John put them at ease right away. He was happy to answer any questions and just hang out. I asked John about how he felt about all this and he said he just likes to meet homebrewers. He is happy that he is responsible for so many people learning to brew. He is a rockstar who also answers brewers emails on a regular basis. While he was here we brewed an IPA of John's design for big brew day. Here are the recipes if you want to give them a try: John Palmer's Big Olde IPA (Extract/Partial Mash) John Palmer's Big Olde IPA (All Grain) At 1pm, we did the Big Brew Toast where we celebrated all things good and home brew. Hanging and eating pizza, talking with brewers. From Bitter & Esters we went to Bierkraft for lunch with Sean and Samantha from Pour Standards Home brew club on Staten island. Just hanging with our buddy JP, talking beer, shooting the shit. He also did an interview with the Village Voice! We went to the Staten Island makerspace after that for a Pour Standards meeting and to brew another beer. John spoke and signed books and talked with the brewers. A highlight of the evening was when the makerspace folks made a 3D action figure of John Palmer holding a mash paddle using a turntable and an XBox Kinect. It was funny to watch as they had to scan him several times, he was a trooper. He was thrilled with the end result and wanted to show his three kids that there is a John Palmer action figure. Thanks to Sean and Sam for ferrying everyone around! Pour Standards with John Palmer One of the points John made at every stop was that brewing is like cooking and your water additions are seasonings. He made a great analogy using spaghetti sauce (I loved that, being Italian). If your sauce is too base, it will be dull. If it is too acidic, it will be bright but one dimensional. Balance is key. He said the difference between really good beer and great beer all came down to the water profile. Home brewers tend to be intimidated by water adjustments, but it's not that hard once you know what you are doing. Home brewers need to see water as the fourth ingredient and your adjustments should be based on your water source and type of beer you are making. John is coming out with an app that will help with adjustments but for now there is a ton of info in his book. What I got out of it was that you should increase sulfates for hoppiness and increase chlorides for maltiness. Then adjust your residual alkalinity for the change in PH. There is a lot more to it than that, too much to go into right now. But as with any other ingredient adjustments you need to brew the beer in order to know if it's the way you want it to taste. Water profile should always be taken into account when writing a recipe and brewing. I predict that as all this info starts getting digested we are going to see even more kick ass homebrews coming down the pike. We are lucky in NYC that we have such soft water. Alkalinity is the real problem in adjustments and ours is very low. We can add salt for our beers and not have to worry about taking things away. There are parts of our country with very high mineral water that needs to be dealt with before brewing (usually by dilution). John emphasized that a brewery’s source water is not necessarily the water they brewed with. Most breweries adjust their water to get the flavor and ph that they need. There has been an excellent series of articles in Zymurgy magazine about brewing water in different regions by Martin Brungard. Martin has a page here that can help you determine your water profile. Check them out and of course, read John's book. On Sunday we started early for the Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts (LIBME) club meeting at The Good Life in Massapequa Park. They did a really nice beer pairing with brunch. Thanks to the chef at The Good Life for accommodating my vegetarianism! In between courses John did a powerpoint presentation all about brewing water. Riding around with John in cars got us talking beer and water chemistry but also a bit of small talk. We are the same age and we're able to bond over many things. In case you were interested, John is a big fan of the Foo Fighters, Rush, Triumph and the Travelling Wilburys. During the drive from Long Island to Finback Brewery in Queens I took the opportunity to record a short conversation with John. Our next stop was at Finback which is a brand new brewery in Queens started by Basil Lee and Kevin Stafford. They were having an American Homebrewer's Association rally that featured a meet and greet with John. What a great space those guys have. Their beer is delicious and they have room to grow. I predict really great things for them. They've been busting their asses and it shows. Finback After 4 hours at Finback we drove to 508 Gastrobrewery in Soho. Chris Cuzme and Mary Izett set it up so that John could meet people in Manhattan and try the many beers at 508. They gave out a drink ticket that said "Dude, that's John Fucking Palmer" which John got a kick out of. We had an awesome dinner there. John spoke with brewers, toured the brewery and answered questions. Mary poured some of her ciders and awesome short meads. Barry at The Brewed Palate was also able to do a quick interview! Chris Palmer Mary Izett It may seem like an easy thing to go from place to place and talk about beer, but it's exhausting. John is constantly meeting new people (he was great with remembering names, I was impressed), answering questions, and drinking beer. He is an ambassador for homebrewing and he loves what he's doing. He is a beer writer, commentator and consultant for breweries full time now. He commented that writing about beer was better than anodizing aluminum. His goal was to be able to walk into a place and get a free beer and he has definitely achieved that. We spoke a bit about all the travelling he does all over the world. There are now huge home brewing communities in South America, especially Brazil. The homebrew community is worldwide and we are a part of it! On Monday we met for dinner at Roberta’s in Bushwick for Chris and Mary's Fuhmnetaboudit Radio show. The Fuhmentaboudit show went really well. It was just Chris, me, Chris Prout from Dirk the Norseman and John. The final event was Sunday evening at Brouwerij Lane in Greenpoint for the Brooklyn Brewsers home brew club meeting. John spoke a bit and then hung out tasting homebrews and talking with brewers. One more car back to Brooklyn. I felt sad saying goodbye to John. It was a short but intense time and we really got along well. I hope he makes more visits to NYC in the near future.We have a great home brew community here in NYC. It gets larger every day and the beers keep getting better. John was impressed by what he saw and tasted. His recognition of our efforts meant the world to me. He envisions a future where brewing beer at home will be as common as cooking food at home. I would love to see that. image_3 Hope to ride in a car with you sometime. John
Back to blog