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March Member Spolight

He's only been with us a few short months, but fresh new member Sam Samanowitz is already a familiar face at HAMS Club meetings and events. This month we get as little more insight into one of the “new guys”.

What’s your day job?

I’m in the financial services industry and I manage Financial Advisors

When did you start homebrewing?

I have been home brewing for two years.

When did you join HAMS?

I joined HAMS in September of 2017.

What got you into brewing?

I have been a beer enthusiast for as long as I can remember and there are certain styles of beer that I was unable to get my hands on certain times of the year and I found that to be incredibly frustrating. I started asking myself, “Why wait until October to enjoy an Oktoberfest?” I also found several limited batches of beers that were so incredible that inspired me to want to brew it, and perhaps make it even better. So two years ago, my buddy Patrick and I started brewing and haven’t looked back since.

Where do you like to brew? I do all of my brewing in my garage which gives me all the space I need..

Where do you ferment & what size batches do you brew? For the last two years, I used either glass or plastic carboys and fermented in my chest freezer. I am since upgraded to a conical fermenter that I temperature control in a commercial size stand up freezer. Up until recently I only brewed 5 gallon batches however I now brew both 10 and 5 gallon batches.

What kind of equipment do you use? Love it? Hate it?

Over the last two years, I have brewed on a propane fired 3 kettle system. I have just moved over to a 10 gallon batch size electric HERMs system. Although I haven’t had the chance to do many batches since the system is relatively new, I’ve been very impressed by it’s ability for temperature control and gives me a repeatable process.

Do you have a “pet name” for your setup?

I have no pet name for my system today but as I brew more on it (and enjoy some home-brew), I’m sure I’ll come up with something creative.

Favorite styles to brew? Why?

My favorite styles to brew are IPAs, Marzen/Oktoberfest, and Porters.

Tell me about your best batch ever.

My best batch ever brewed came out of one of our worst brew days when we first started brewing. Patrick and I were brewing up a Pliny the Elder clone (of course we couldn’t start off with something easy) and had a few too many beers that day. To make a long story short we were shooting for an OG of 1.070 and ended up over 1.1. To this day, we still have no idea how that was possible as we weren’t terrible off from our target volume. The final beer come out over 11% ABV. The first few weeks, it was definitely a rough drinker however after aging for a few weeks it was one of the best beers I have ever had. Needless to say that keg was drained within weeks.

How about your worst?

My worst batch ever brewed just happened a few weeks ago. We brewed up a German Hefeweizen and had it fermenting in my new conical fermenter. I bought a carbonation stone accessory for it and was excited about using it as it was supposed to carbonate the beer within 24 hours. I woke up the next morning to check on it and my CO2 tank was empty as there was a leak in my fermenter. Sure enough I took a sample of the beer and it was completely oxidized and tasted like pure metal. Patrick and I are now referring to this as a new style of beer called a Metalweizen and will definitely not be bringing this to our next club meeting for samples (you can thank me in advance).

Advise to other/new Homebrewers?

There are several pieces of advice I would give to new home-brewers. First off, start with simple equipment such as a cooler for your mash tun and HLT. I have been blown away by the quality of the beers that people in our club have been able to brew on more economical systems.

Secondly (warning…I am biased here) I would start off brewing all grain. I began brewing extract and consistently found that my beers were missing something that the beers I purchased commercially didn’t. Once I switched over the all grain, I found many of the beers I brewed were just as good if not better than what I was buying commercially.

The final item I would mention is to learn the importance of water chemistry earlier. Up until recently I haven’t focused on water chemistry as much as I should have and found that certain styles of beer that I brewed such as IPAs lacked the crispness or dryness that I was looking for. In many books it reflects water chemistry as one of the last lessons to learn but as I am brewing more, I think it should be one of the first as it makes a big difference. Also, when choosing what water profile to mimic, don’t choose based upon region but rather what the ideal water profile is for that style of beer.

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