An Interview with Tim Palmer
2013 Best of Show at the Indiana State Fair Brewers Cup
As part of the prize package for winning Best of Show at the Brewers Cup, the winner is invited to brew their award-winning beer at the Broad Ripple Brewpub. Tim Palmer’s winning German Pils will be tapped on Wednesday, April 30th at 6 PM. Be sure to stop by and celebrate a great beer and great brewers.
Here is a recap of a recent conversation I had with Tim about all things brewing, and even his thoughts on brewing at the professional level. The conversation (fittingly) took place over beers at the Brew Pub :)
Back in 2009 I was looking for a hobby and thought, I love beer. Why not try to make beer? My first beer was an Irish Red that I scorched the heck out of it and had to scour the burned sugar from the bottom of my pot. I was discouraged, but I tried again. The second try was much better and fueled my passion for the hobby. Brewing appealed to me because in my work life I am an engineer. Engineering involves looking at a process or a product both technically and creatively at the same time, and so does brewing. That combination of science and creativity is what I really love about brewing.
As an engineer, I’m very detail oriented. When something doesn’t work, I try to figure out why it didn’t work and try again. The first time I brewed a Cream ale I used all tap water and the resulting beer just didn’t taste right. So the next time I brewed it I left everything the same except I used only reverse osmosis water. That beer didn’t taste quite right either. So I did some more reading and blended my tap water with some reverse osmosis water and hit the right flavor combination. I don’t always brew to style but I always start with the style in mind when I want to create something new. Beer styles give you a good base to get creative.
I don’t have a fancy brewery. I brew in my garage and my brewpot is the Blichmann BoilerMaker I won as part of the Best of Show prize. My hot liquor tank is a converted keg and I mash in a cooler. My favorite piece of equipment is my refractometer. I wanted it because I take measurements constantly and it is so simple, fast and accurate. It keeps me on the right track when I am brewing.
Brewing with John Treeter at the Brewpub was so much fun. It was so interesting to see how different brewing is on a professional scale. I loved seeing the process and the equipment, and how it all worked together in such a small space. My only surprise was realizing how flexible you can be as a homebrewer. A professional’s equipment and time constraints can be very limiting. Step mashing, decoctions and lagering may not be possible in a commercial operation.
A German pils is such a light, delicate beer. There is nothing to hide behind. There is little to no specialty grain and very few hops. You need to do everything you can to punch up the flavor within the style guidelines. I did a double decoction on my German Pilsner that took Best of Show honors. I know people say you don’t have to decoct to have an award winning German pils. But I really think the decoction I did really made a difference in the beer. I don’t think you can get the depth of malt character by just substituting melanoidin malt for the decoction. A good analogy would be cooking a steak on the grill and cooking a steak in the microwave. In the end they are both cooked but the flavor is vastly different.
I love brewing so much that I couldn’t possibly drink all the beer I make. I share a lot with friends and family and fellow Foam Blowers of Indiana (FBI) homebrew club members. Joining the club really helped me brew better beer. There are so many great brewers and judges in the club to learn from. At first I was intimidated but I listened and learned and my beer is better for it. The FBI has been a huge, huge help and I get a lot of joy out of sharing beers with them at club meetings.
I’ve been asked if I will ever become a commercial brewer. I can’t say I haven’t thought about it. But I have a kid in college and another one about to start. Now’s probably not the right time. But then again, when is the right time? It was great to see what it was all about when I brewed at the Broad Ripple Brewpub. A guy can dream, can’t he?
I have learned so much from so many people, so in the spirit of sharing, here is my German Pils recipe:
Tim Palmer’s Best of Show German Pils All-Grain Recipe (5 Gallons)
Estimated OG: 1.048
Estimated Bitterness: 35 IBUs
9.5 lbs. German Pilsner Malt
Hops & Boil Schedule
0.60 oz Magnum (13.5%) @ 60 minutes
0.50 Hallertauer (4.3%) @ 15 minutes
1 tsp. Irish Moss @ 15 minutes
1/2 tsp. Yeast Nutrient @ 10 minutes
0.50 Hallertauer (4.3%) @ 0 minutes
Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Pilsner
67% RO/33% filtered tap
2 grams Gypsum/1 grams CaCl2 in Mash
2 grams Gypsum/0.5 grams CaCl2 in Kettle
Acidified sparge water to a pH of 5.7
Ferment at 50 degrees and raise to 55 near last part of ferment for diacetyl rest.