That’s right. Passion! Brewing is a labor of love for all brewers, regardless of where they brew.
Some brew at some of the biggest breweries in the country; some brew in their garage… That does not change one fact: They have the passion. But while all of them have the passion, the ones who let it transpire the most are usually home brewers. I had the great pleasure of attending the Steinbeck Home Brew Fest in Salinas in early May and got to meet with really passionate home brewers. As you may know, almost all brewers in the craft beer community are either still home brewers themselves or, at the very least, started as home brewers before using commercial systems. It’s now time I feature some of the home brewers present at the festival. I have already featured MiraCal Brew and Martha’s Hopyard. This time around, I sat down (virtually) with Mike Durrant from Hop Fog Brewing in Pacific Grove, CA. Here is what he’s got to say about his home brewery:
What is Hop Fog?
Hop Fog is a flowing team of 5-6 beer loving brewers in Pacific Grove, California. I say flowing as it is not really a “set” team of brewers but an open forum to bring people in to learn about this craft and hopefully help build and be part of a culture very similarly to Belgium in that every town has its brewery and each brewery has a culture to share. For me, it started about 20 years ago when I was using a single 7-gallon kettle and plastic buckets. I was happy to be drinking beer that I made but I was also brewing mostly from extracts and always felt that I was cheating. As I grew, my passion for two things started taking over: my love for technology and process engineering and I wanted to dive fully into the fermenter so to speak and learn the entire “pure” process of making great beers from scratch. I studied and over time, began to build my own “brauhaus.” It really started in my kitchen much to my wife’s delight…. and detriment. She was happy at how clean I would get the kitchen before brewing but then she would realize that the next 7 hours of my day and her access to said kitchen were now just a distant untouchable reality. Once I got going, the interest started picking up and before you know it, we would have brew days with 6-8 people over (BBQ or brew day… take your pick??). Before you knew it, Hop Fog Brewing was created. We are teachers, salesmen, computer geeks, but above all, we are lovers of beer – I had to get something super cheesy in!
Why Hop Fog?
Hop Fog Brewing is named in association with many different things but primarily relates to the town we live or at least that we met in – Pacific grove, California which is known for its foggy days. On top of it, we are all huge hop heads and love our IPA’s. Huge doses of dry hops help create those hazy IPA’s that we are all falling in love with. So Hop Fog Brewing just kind of found its name and found a great home in Pacific Grove and Monterey, California.
How did you get into home brewing?
I have always liked to learn how things are made. On top of it, I have always been fascinated with substances that can “twist” the human brain and help distort our reality. I would try to understand how they work, how they are made, what the effects are, etc. So I had a natural obsession with beer and liquor. It kind of started when I was 16-17 years old, and while I did not drink at that age (I grew up Mormon and basically followed the rules until a couple years later), I had a good friend who was from Canada and like all good Canadians, he loved beer and wanted to learn how to make it. His mom helped him buy a homebrew kit and while I hated the beer, I loved the process of making the beer and the fascination that people had with beer. A few years passed and I started brewing all grain and that is when the passion really took over. Once I was taking a bill of grains, water, hops and yeast and making an incredible and nutritious beverage I never looked back and continue to grow my passion and the amount of equipment I have with no end in sight.
Where are you guys at now?
Like most homebrewers, we are at your local parties and on tap at our home breweries For me, that’s the Laurel Street Brauhaus in Pacific Grove. It is a passion that we all will day dream about and in many cases, we will reach out to a brewery or two in hopes of finding a way to make this hobby earn us a living. But I think that the realities are that very few will make it into commercializing our beers. That said, f**k it, let’s see how we can do this and create a culture that appreciates locally brewed craft beers and other beverages and fun foods that bring our communities together to appreciate what our friends, families and neighbors have to provide.
What are your plans for the future?
Oh boy, if my future is anything like my past, it will change about 10 times in the next 10 years. As for Hop Fog, we will see if we can turn it into anything more than a local dream to help build a culture. There is a lot of brewing, kegging, bottling, canning and cleaning to be done and a lot of beer to be drunk and smiles to put on friends’ faces. We will only see where this passion takes us, but I hope that whatever comes up it involves a lot of good people, good food, good places and good beers!
Tell us more about your beer
The beers are primarily flavor forward beers. This can be imperials and IPA’s of all denominations, pastry stouts, Irish red ales, you know, heavier beers that you don’t drink a lot of but what you do drink pack a whole array of great punches… That does not limit what will be made as beer is beer and everyone is unique with their own. For the most part, making a beer starts with an inspiration or an idea given by someone or something usually during a nice conversation while drinking a homebrew. Then it’s off to hit the books. I’ll usually create the recipes, spending countless hours reading up on beers, ingredients, temperatures, water salts, etc.. I’ll start building the recipe, making many changes before coming up with what is supposed to be the final hurrah. But, many times I will throw a curveball in at the end and make a last-minute change to an ingredient and while this does not always work out, sometimes you hit a home run. On my last brown ale, it started out as an amber but with a last-minute change due to the color at an early stage in the mash, I threw in some extra grains and it changed complexity of the drink, turning it from an amber ale into a brown ale but in that case, it worked out for the better. I think that many great beers are made this way. The tricky part of brewing is that once you have created a great beer, you also want to be able to brew it again and again. There are so many factors to brewing beer and consistency is the hardest to overcome so we take more notes and can be more OCD and superstitious than many.
More photos from Hop Fog Brewing: