On a foggy Venice Beach day in late 2006, young Ben decided it was the perfect day to crack open his roommate's homebrew kit and boil some wort. Roughly a year later, he got to know a certain Patrick and Tyler.
What happened that made you start homebrewing?
My roommate, Jared, had received a basic homebrewers kit for his birthday from his girlfriend at the time. We were both very amateur beer nerds, but excited at the idea of making our own brew and seeing how it turned out. We didn't live far from the Culver City Homebrew Supply store so we stopped in to pick up a recipe and ingredients.
The first beer that we brewed was a holiday spiced beer and we debuted it at the annual Christmas party that one of our college buddies threw each year. It was a rousing success. After the excitement of not just brewing that beer, but printing up labels on Avery stickers and seeing the great reaction from our friends as they sipped on the surprisingly tasty concoction, we decided to continue brewing, even naming our home 'brewery'.
Further, due in part to the beer success, Jared eventually married that girlfriend.
What's in your carboy right now?
Sadly, my carboy is sitting empty in my beer cellar. After I became a professional brewer here at The Bruery in 2008, it just wasn't as exciting to go home and continue doing what I had been working on all day long.
These days I spend most of my hours sitting behind a computer and I have a great urge to start mashing grain again, but I'm waiting to save a few more dollars so that I can invest in a better homebrewing system. It's hard to go back to a stove after working on a professional system. Until then, I keep myself happy with the fine craft brews from The Bruery and beyond.
What was your biggest disaster?
The biggest disaster? I think there was a lesson learned on each of my first 10 batches or so. One of the most memorable disasters was coming home to an empty apartment after a day at the office.
I dropped my bag off in my bedroom and couldn't help but notice a bizarre, high pitched whistling. Was a pipe leaking? Was the stove on? Was a mouse trying to get my attention? I followed the monotone tune into my roommate Jared's room. Then into his walk-in closet. There, I fell down laughing.
We had brewed a dunkelweizen over the weekend and decided that his closet was the most temperate space we had, perfect for fermentation. What we didn't realize is that a malty dunkel will produce a heck of a lot of gas, shooting the cap of the airlock off and sending beer all over Jared's dress shirts. The beer had clogged the top of the blowoff, creating just a small hole and a high pitched whistle. This was the day I learned about blowoff tubes.
On a bonus note, I was the brewer on the infamous Black Tuesday, so perhaps you could call that my biggest disaster?
Do you have a, "Whoa it was super cool this one time this thing happened!" moment to share?
I'm the marketing guy at The Bruery, so let me share with you a "whoa it was super cool (and really hilarious) that this one time this thing happened" moment that involves marketing my homebrew since I'm sure everyone else is regaling you with tales of hops and spices.
As referenced earlier, my 'brewery' had a name and we would make labels for each beer. I'd share that name and those labels with you, but let's just say that they didn't have quite the same classy feel as The Bruery. I really went far, perhaps too far, in trying to brand this company that didn't really exist. I would often get phone calls on my cell phone asking about tasting room hours and distribution.
One time, I got a call from an ID blocked number. The nice sounding gentleman on the other end of the line informed me that he was new to the area and looking for some cool beer spots. I let him down and told him that we weren't really a brewery, but as something in his voice sounded friendly, I decided to keep him on the line and let him know about the local craft beer spots.
Towards the end of the conversation, right before hanging up, the fella asked, "Hey, when you first picked up the phone, did you mention something about a record label?" And I had, because I was currently employed by a major record label and thought it might have been a business call.
"Ya, I work for Interscope." "Oh, do you know Benjamin Weiss?" "Phil??" "Ben??" I had been talking to my cousin all along and not known it. And now we both work in the same industry. Oh life, you are funny.
What advice do you have for a new homebrewer?
If you want to have the best IPA in the world, you're better off getting one from a commercial brewery where they have incredible procedures in place for sanitation and temperature control and all of the minutia that is nearly impossible to master at home. To me, homebrewing is about making that beer that you don't know why nobody else has thought of.
Grow your own herbs and throw them in there. Search your cupboard for your favorite ingredients and figure out how to make a recipe with them. Get inspired while at dinner. Get inspired while reading a book. The only person you have to appease is yourself, so you may as well have fun with it.