Monday, September 1, 2014

tina is her own lady

Tina is fun to have a drink with, but she's got more than good party etiquette; she brews her own beer!  Her knowledge and enthusiasm around craft beers is contagious, and she's generous enough to school us on how to start drinking the good stuff.  Pay attention, and you might even end up brewing your own!

Tell us a little about yourself. 
 My name is Tina, I’m 26 years old and live in Somerville, MA. I went to UMASS Amherst and am currently working at Tufts University in education administration. I am very close with my family and love spending time with them, especially with my 4 year old niece, Elyssa! I also have a great group of friends that I am very lucky to have in my life. In my free time, I love knitting, baking, jogging, reading, cheering on the Boston Celtics, and of course, drinking beer!

Have you always been into beer?  What kinds do you prefer?
I credit my brother-in-law, Matt, for getting me into craft beer. In college, I drank whatever beer was cheapest and didn’t really have any preferences. After I turned 21, Matt and my sister, Lori, took me to Cambridge Brewing Company in Kendall Square and I tried their Spring Training IPA, which I LOVED. The idea that beer could be that interesting and delicious really changed things for me. After that, I started to buy craft beers and started visiting breweries. The first brewery I went to was Berkshire Brewing Company in South Deerfield while I was at UMASS. From then, I just started trying lots of new beers and visiting breweries as much as I could. It also helped that I moved to Somerville after college, which has a great craft beer scene with lots of local craft breweries and events going on.

My favorite style is the India Pale Ale (IPA). I am a big fan of hoppy beers and there are so many different variations on the style which make it very interesting. What I’m drinking also varies by season. During the summer, I drink wheat ales or hefeweizens and in the Winter I drink porters and stouts. There are so many great styles, I love to try everything!

When did you start getting interested in brewing your own beer?
 My interest in brewing my own beer was a natural progression from loving beer and visiting breweries to wanting to try it out! Brewing started out as a couples’ project, but even though the relationship has ended, I continued to love beer and brewing.

What kinds of beer have you brewed?  How did you pick them?
 I’ve brewed a variety of beer styles including porters, stouts, pale ales, IPAs, wheat ales, and pumpkin ales to name a few. Some of my favorites were a strawberry/raspberry wheat ale, a coffee porter, and a milk chocolate stout. I like to brew styles I enjoy, but also like to add a twist and try new things. I would get an idea, then do some research online and come up with a recipe. Adding something new to make the beer special was always something fun to do, like the raspberry/strawberry wheat ale (which was delicious!).

How long a process is brewing?  What special equipment do you need?
 It takes about 4-6 weeks to brew a beer, but a lot of that time is just waiting for the beer to be ready! After brewing the beer, you wait for the beer to ferment, which is the process of the yeast and sugars interacting to make beer. Once the beer has finished fermenting and you are happy with the result, you then have to bottle the beer, which needs to sit for at least two weeks (sometimes longer) for the beer to carbonate. It’s a long process, but totally worth it!  

Typically, when you start out with homebrewing, you are doing what is called “extract brewing.” This simplifies the process that professional brewers use and makes it more accessible for homebrewers (here is a graphic that explains a little of the science). You’ll need some basic equipment to get started, including a stove, a brew pot, a fermenter, and beer bottles, along with the ingredients for brewing the beer. You will also need to clean and sanitize EVERYTHING to avoid contamination, so a big sink is also really great although not required.

What is the next brewing project you’d like to try? 
I actually haven’t been brewing for the last couple of years since I moved into a smaller apartment, but really want to get back into it. Since I'm in a small apartment, I have been looking into doing smaller batches of beer, like 1 gallon batches. This is great because it saves A LOT of space and you don't need as much stuff. I have been thinking about brewing a pumpkin ale for the fall. Pumpkin ales can be tricky because you don’t want the spices to be overpowering and you need the flavors to be balanced. So it will be a fun beer to brew!

What advice do you have for people who want to branch out and try microbrew or even just non-mainstream beers?
I recommend to start local. We are so lucky to be in New England with SO many amazing craft breweries in Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine. Grab a mixed 12 pack of Sam Adams or Harpoon to start. See what you like from that and try that style in a different brewery. Or better yet, take a trip to a local brewery and sample the beers they have. Or go out to a local brew pub and order a flight of beer, they’ll start with the lighter styles and get darker, so you can really explore the spectrum. Another suggestion would be to check out a beer festival where you can sample lots of different beers and talk to the brewery employees about their beers. Drink Craft Beer is a great organization that has lots of beer festivals year round! (

My main advice is to not be discouraged if you don’t love every beer at first! Odds are you’re not going to suddenly love barrel-aged bourbon stouts right off the bat, you need to really work your way up there. Keep an open mind and try as many styles as you can, you might think you don’t like beer, but you might just not like hoppy beers and prefer lighter styles. There is a style for everyone!

Some examples of breweries I love::
     Mayflower Brewing Company, Plymouth, MA: This brewery has some solid year-round offerings and amazing seasonals! It’s worth taking a trip to visit them in Plymouth and grabbing a growler of whatever is on tap.
     Jack’s Abby Brewing, Framingham, MA: This is probably my favorite brewery! They only make lagers, which are known to be a bit boring, but not their lagers. Try Hopponius Union or Mass Rising.
     Baxter Brewing Company, Lewiston, ME: I love all of their beers, especially the Pamola Xtra Pale Ale for an easy drinking beer. All of their beers come in cans, which I love. Canned beers are becoming very popular and make a lot of sense for craft beers.Cans block out all light, keeping the beer fresh, and are better environmentally. And technology is much more advanced so the can won’t leave any bad taste in the beer.
     Tröeg’s Brewing Company, Hershey, PA: They have one of my favorite beers, Nugget Nectar. Try it when it’s out in February!
     Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project, Somerville, MA: This couple brews some great experimental beers and are really cool people! Try their flagship beer, Jack D’or, you won’t be disappointed.

What advice do you have for people who want to try brewing their own beer?
 If you are thinking about brewing beer but want to learn more, you can do some research online
( is a great place to start) or pick up The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian, which is a wonderful and informative book on homebrewing. To learn more about the brewing process, check out a local brewery, which gives you a visual representation of how the process works.

If you have decided to go ahead and get started, I recommend making a trip to your local homebrew shop and picking up a brewing kit. You can typically get started for about $100, give or take. And once you have all of the equipment, you will just need to buy ingredients for the beer, which ranges from $30-50 depending on the beer style you are brewing. I love Homebrew Emporium, which has multiple locations. They have very knowledgeable staff and won’t try to sell you anything you don’t need ( You can also buy kits online with everything you need, but I recommend going into the store if you’re a new brewer since they can give you great advice.

Most of all, remember to have fun and relax! Brewing beer is a great hobby to pick up and learn about. Don’t be intimidated by the process!

Other useful links: Great information on how to homebrew Information on brewing and forums with tips & recipes A very informative website with a ton of information on brewing

Are you dying for a beer?  I want to drop everything and order a tasting flight.  And maybe even take notes on the different flavors.  This is how geeked out this awesome info makes me.  How about you?  Have you tried homebrewing?  Any favorite beers or breweries?  Drink safely, ladies and gentlemen!

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