Jason Barzyk is a homebrewer based out of the Northwest Suburbs. A college student by day and a master homebrewer by night; he is one of the many people that turned his passion for beer into a creative, productive activity. To finish off this homebrewing series on a personal note, I sat down with Jason for a brief interview to ask him about his thoughts on beer and brewing.
Why did you start homebrewing?
Well, you know, just like anything else you do in life, I didn’t really think about it at the time. It was just something to do. Something interesting. There is a homebrew shop close by [my home]. So, I picked up a book, gave it a read, and ever since then I have been brewing multiple batches each month.
How much beer do you brew and what types of beer interest you?
I do mostly ales. They’re a little bit easier to do because you don’t have to have such a strict temperature control. I do a lot of batches. The legal limit is 200 gallons a year…so I’m going to stick with that. I do all kinds of ales: stouts, porters, American Pale ales – I love those. I make a rye that’s award winning. I make a lot of different beers – a lot of American beers.
So far, what is your favorite beer that you have made?
I think… I think it would have to be my porter. I really enjoy that beer. It’s an easy drinking, nice winter ale you can sit down by a warm fire with and drink a lot of.
Sounds great! You said you have award winning beer. What is the most recent contest you have joined and what award did you win?
The most recent competition I entered was regionals for the National Homebrew Competition, or the NHC, as it’s called. So, for the Great Lakes region, I won third in the “light hybrid” category. It was my rye beer. I made it for my girlfriend’s graduation, and everyone loves it. It’s also won first place at the Babble Brew Off over in Mundelein, IL. It took first in the same category, too. It’s a pretty good recipe.
Do you plan on re-brewing it any time soon?
Actually, I have it in the fermenter right now. I am trying to do an experiment. I made three different variations of this beer. Once it’s done [fermenting], I am going to taste it, see which one I like best, and then re-enter it into the second round of nationals. Hopefully, I’ll win something else there.
This is just a hobby, correct?
That is correct, yeah.
Are there any plans to extent this, maybe, to the realm of career choice?
Well, that’s something I think I would really enjoy doing, but so far, it’s just a hobby.
Back to the contests – are there any contests you plan on entering such as the Sam Adams Longshot?
(Smiles and shakes his head) I don’t think so. This year the Longshot has a preference for Category 23, which is a specialty category. That category itself is difficult to judge because there are so many non-BJCP, or Beer Judge Certification Program, styles. With the concentration in that category, I feel like the beers I make don’t really fall into it. So, I don’t think I’d win anything there, but like I said, it’s more of a hobby. I make beer I like to drink. When I have a beer that’s really good, and there is a competition around the same time I have it, I’ll throw it in. That happened last summer. I won third at the Crown Brewing competition in Crown Point, Indiana. I won third in their American Pale Ale category.
Besides homebrew, what’s your favorite beer?
My favorite beer? Well, I like all different kinds of beers so it’s hard to narrow down. It’s like asking what your favorite song is.
Okay, if you were going to die tomorrow, what beer would you want to drink?
The best beer I’ve ever had was from a small brewpub in Benton Harbor, Michigan called The Livery. They made a beer they called The Liverator which is an oak-aged doppelbock. It is a lager beer, but it had just a very faint oakiness and touch of sourness to it that was quite refreshing and that cleansed the palate. It makes you ready for another sip. It’s a great beer.