Monday, March 28, 2011

Zero Hour

In about seven hours, I'll be sitting in a cramped little airplane seat while my plane to Copenhagen takes off from O'Hare. My bags are packed, my paperwork's in order and I'm as ready as I'll ever be, if a tad nervous. I will likely be too busy in Aalborg to post much in my first week there, but you can count on plenty of regular updates from there.

I'd like to thank all my friends and family, as well as the Chicago brewing community and the Siebel Institute, for helping me along my journey thus far and spurring me on to pursue my dream. See you all in Denmark!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Beer So Far: Highbrau Brewing

As I mentioned in the previous post, I began homebrewing in early 2008 and started taking it really seriously in early 2009, when I moved up to an all-grain system. I enjoy sharing my creative works with others, and since I wanted to practice everything from the creation of beer to its marketing and serving, I created a "brand" for my homebrews and made a website for them:

Click to see the website.

One of my passions throughout my life has been literature. I began reading at a very young age, and continue to consume books voraciously to this day. I enjoy everything from the literary classics to modern science fiction, and am constantly on the lookout for new books. When I decided to create a brand for my homebrews, I wanted to fuse these two interests into something that would pay tribute to them both. I came up with the name Highbrau, and my friend Justin Wolf put together some logo and brand design for me. Since then, I've been using the Highbrau brand to market myself and my beers, and have taken some steps to ensure that I can use the name professionally in the future should I choose to do so (check out http://www.highbraubrewing.com!).

From the beginning of my homebrewing career, I had an equal enthusiasm for brewing classic examples of traditional styles, and experimenting with new ingredients, techniques and concepts. I've created traditional English bitters, Baltic porters and Reinheitsgebot-compliant German lagers, complete with double decoctions and long aging periods. Standing right alongside those beers have been more unusual concoctions like black saisons, American table beers, Belgian imperial stouts and smoked rye doppelbocks. The last beer to be brewed in my current apartment was a low-alcohol Belgian farmhouse ale, infused with lavender and dry-hopped with Sorachi Ace hops. The whole wide world of beer fascinates and entices me, and I've tried to span my work across as many parts of it as possible, from the simplest session beer to the most painstakingly-crafted sour ale. 

To improve my craft, I completed my education at the Siebel Institute in Chicago, while doing independent research and seeking out critical feedback from as many sources as possible. Both the homebrewing and professional brewing communities have been very helpful, and I'm thankful for all the assistance they've given me... along with lots of good times and good beer.

Below are a few of my personal favorites from over the years:

Big Brother Brown Ale - An American brown ale, brewed to hefty proportions and heavily hopped like an IPA. Sweet and roasty malt flavors mesh with Willamette and Cascade hop bitterness. Doubleplus Delicious! (6.5% ABV, 59 IBUs, brewed on 06/21/2010)

Raketemensch Weizenbock - A screaming comes across the sky, and it's a hefty German wheat beer aimed directly for your glass. Munich malt and dark wheat give it a rich, bready malt body, accompanied by banana and clove flavors from the weizen yeast. "Fickt nicht mit der Raketemensch!" (8% ABV, 20 IBUs, brewed on 10/03/2010)

Dorian Gray Pale Ale - Pilsner malt, Hallertauer hops and Belgian Trappist yeast... that's it! This beer draws great complexity from its simple recipe. Grainy malt, herbal hops and fruity, spicy yeast character all combine to make a refreshing, delicious beer. Nothing's more satisfying than a pitcher of Dorian Gray! (6% ABV, 29 IBUs, brewed on 01/08/2011)

I leave for Denmark in five days, and from the looks of it, S√łgaards Bryghus exercises the same mix of traditionalism and experimentation that I do. I expect it'll be a good place to brew.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Bit of Personal History

Before I head off to Denmark and start relentlessly posting about brewing there, I may as well provide a bit of personal and professional background:

I graduated from Purdue University in 2004 with a degree in English. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do for a living, but I knew I loved reading and writing, so I ended up studying English more or less by default. I focused on technical writing toward the end of my education, but never pursued work in that field. Instead, I fell into the litigation support industry through a temp agency and quickly worked my way up the ladder by virtue of my technical skills, versatility and hard work. By 2008, I was working for a large law firm in downtown Chicago, which enabled me to further explore my enthusiasm for beer. 

My dad introduced me to beer when I was a teenager, and got me started on the right tack with beers like Newcastle Brown Ale and Guinness. During college, my best friend and I imbibed a steady diet of Leinenkugel's Red and Creamy Dark, until his curiosity led him to brands like Unibroue and Rogue. I went along for the ride, and realized just how large the world of beer really was. By the time I graduated from college and returned to Chicago, I was actively exploring new territory with beers from Three Floyds, Dogfish Head and others. I continued to expand my knowledge of beers from across the world, never turning down a style or brewer.

That same friend, along with his girlfriend, began homebrewing long before me, but once again piqued my curiosity and encouraged me to follow his lead. In early 2008, I brewed my first batch of beer - a Brewer's Best brown ale - and, although I continued to invest more time in other hobbies like music production, I grew more and more interested in the craft. I began working with spices in my second beer, a "Mexican chocolate stout" with cocoa nibs, cayenne pepper and cinnamon, and continued experimenting with unusual recipes while brewing more traditional styles. Within a year, I switched from extract to all-grain homebrewing, and began getting involved in local beer communities like the Chicago Beer Society. 

The tipping point came in summer of 2009, when I lost my law firm job and confronted the possibility of a career change. Doing database work for law firms paid the bills, but did I want to keep doing that for the rest of my life? I realized that I'd been coasting for a while in a field that ultimately didn't satisfy me, so I did some serious thinking and explored my options. Then I realized that my enthusiasm for brewing was nearly boundless: I could discuss the science, craft and history of making beer for hours, and actively put a great deal of time and effort into honing my homebrewing skills. I took the plunge and signed up for the International Diploma course at the Siebel Institute in Chicago, and started making plans to enter the brewing industry.

My time at the Siebel Institute introduced me to a number of fantastic people, and imparted a thorough education on the production of beer. I also spent some time volunteering with Metropolitan Brewing, which gave me some nuts-and-bolts experience in the production process. I continued volunteering with them while I searched for brewery work, as well as honing my skills with more intensive homebrewing than ever. I even did some food pairing work with beer while working with a gourmet cheese purveyor. Now, I'm finally on the verge of starting my first brewing job, which will take me further than I've ever been before to the country of Denmark. I'm incredibly excited, and thankful for all the support given by family, friends, homebrewers and pro brewers alike.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Down the Rabbit Hole. (A short introduction)

Welcome to Ubik Brewing. I'm a long-time beer enthusiast and homebrewer who's finally broken into the brewing industry in an unexpected way: In a few weeks time, I'll be moving overseas to work for S√łgaards Bryghus, a brewery in northern Denmark. I'm starting this blog to chronicle my time in Europe, as well as my continuing experiences in brewing and drinking beer. There'll also be some food stuff thrown in, and maybe even some writing about music and literature.

Right now I'm scrambling to prepare for the move, while visiting my favorite Chicago haunts and as many of my friends as I can before I go. There'll probably be a post here and there before I go, but things will really kick off once I'm in Denmark proper. In the meantime, you can check out my regular website at http://www.ubikmusic.org/, which also has plenty of information about my homebrewing.

So welcome, and I hope you stick around!

-Brian Davis