Chris "Peas" Fillmore with Wooden Bridge Brewery

June 11, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

You may remember from an earlier post I talked about Chris Fillmore, my friend who brews his own craft beers. After another fun photo shoot with him while he made two more home brews, I also chatted with him about his craft.

- Intro to Chris Fillmore -

One of the most common questions I get asked about my brewing of beer is, "How and when did you get started?" I have been brewing for a few years, and it all started on my 22nd birthday. My Dad got me a Mr. Beer Kit (the little 2 gallon jug with syrup and a dried yeast packet).  Well technically it didn't start there since I left the gift to sit at my Moms house, in the basement, while I was off being a post-high school kid, drinking the cheapest thing I could working s***ty jobs and trying to play music.  But then I moved back home and decided to move to St. Paul, MN to try my hand at College, not a normal college I might add but a music school.  While living in this vibrant and culturally diverse city (or Twin Cities), my roommates opened my eyes to drinking beers more than "Beast" or "Natty." I was invited to try some New Belgum,  Bells, and Leinenkugel among others.  It blew my mind to see that beer's actual function was to taste good, not just get you drunk!!! 

But still brewing was the farthest thing in my mind until I was walking down a street in St. Paul and walking into a Brewing Store, now I know as Northern Brewer. But back then it was just a store that seemed to fall into my lap. A store where I can make beer. What a novel concept, something I can create and craft, put my heart and sweat into. This was for me!!! Since I was a poor college kid who had just graduated and with no job I was forced to move back home, so with my Mr. Beer kit in hand I gave brewing a try. I remember getting out the instructions and thinking, "Wow this is really easy!" Just add water, syrup, boil for a bit, put in jug and add yeast. At that moment I was hooked, the next day I went to a local Homebrew store and bought books, a boil kettle, a 5 gallon bucket, and a beer recipe kit and made my second batch in my friend's apartment while they were asleep.  From there it has just spiralled into what it is today, a whole bookcase of Beer books, DVDs, a room full of equipment, and a Great Girlfriend and Mother who have put up with all this stuff and my crazy rants about beer and brewing.

 

John-Paul: For those who don't have a clue behind the magical mysteries, what is the process you go through for making beer.

Chris: Haha magical mysteries, that's funny cause up until recently (a couple hundred years or so) it really was magic that created fermentation. So first is the recipe, figuring out what type I want to make. Then head to my books to check the basic guidelines for a style of beer and come up with a recipe that sounds good to me.

Chris:

First is to Mash In (basically steep the grains in hot water to convert the starch into the sugar). Next is to separate the Wort (water with the sugar from steeping the grains) and put it into the Boil Kettle. Then you boil the Wort and add Hops and/or other things like spices to give it different tastes.

 
John-Paul: Even today it still sounds very magical how organic things are purposefully made to go bad, then transformed into a delicious beverage that makes us feel good!
How do you go about deciding what flavors to combine, what kind of fruits or other ingredients you choose?
Chris: I agree. To this day the process is very magical, even though we can control much of the process like what type of yeast we use or even understand how the yeast works. It is still a living organism that takes control and does what it wants to. I think there is still a good bit of magic and luck in Brewing.
I usually get ideas from talking with friends or reading something or seeing something in the grocery store and wonder if or how I can put that in a beer, so I try it and hope it comes out tasting good.
 
John-Paul: I agree! And there's still that whole dimension of the unknown where human's still don't have a hand in it. Case in point, I was in Boston two weekends ago and apparently the local-only sold Sam Adams Brick Red batch didn't turn out, so unfortunately I couldn't get any anywhere this time around. I'm sure you have measures to conteract this as much as possible?
 
Chris: Oh of course, but there is still only so much you can do, it has happened to me a couple times few months ago. I had to toss out two batches of brew. One a Russian Imperial and the other a batch of Innes Ale when the yeast I had did not ferment fully and properly. I tried to save them both my moving them to a different fermentation vessel and tried more yeast but to no avail, so I had to dump them. Sad times.
 
John-Paul: Sad times indeed! I'm sure the ingredients for a 5 gallon craft brew don't come cheap.
This last time I stopped by to help you with another beer and to shoot this last set, you were making two different beers at two different periods of the process. Tell me about those two.
Chris: The first one would be WoodenBlu, the Blueberry Cream Ale that was done fermenting and I was adding the 14 pounds of blueberries. The second one is Lagalieba (named thanks to Dan Craddock), the one that we brewed together and that was actually my first true Lager. Though WoodenBlu has Lager yeast in it, but Ale yeast also. The best part is trying the beer in the different stages, like when we tried the fermented WoodenBlue before the blueberries, and then once we added them it tasted totally different.
 
 
John-Paul: That was some delicious stuff! You're right though, its amazing how adding just one other ingredient changes the taste so much, making it another beer all on its own.
Well, I'll leave this last part to you. Anything else you would like to add?
 
Chris: Yes I would like to thank You and JPZ-photo, all my family and friends who help me out with the brewing and this brewing venture.
 
The whole set of photos can be seen at www.jpzphoto.com/woodenbridge/

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