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Ask a Brewer with Steve Ruby



Question: How do you know how a beer with extreme flavor (we might add hot peppers to our next batch) is going to come out in the end, and how do you make sure that flavor doesn’t become overpowering?

Steve Ruby: Experience is really the only way to get a good feel for it, to be honest. Take notes like you never did in school and make sure any little change is noted. Every recipe is different and the interactions between ingredients will all be different as well. In time, you will be able to better anticipate how different recipes react to spices. Taste your infusion each day, noting when you added and when you pull it and then if the flavors continue developing. One thing, and this is big, is always start lower than you may want to until you get a better understanding of how your recipes react. It’s much easier to add spice than to take them out. Also, with peppers, if you want to make sure the heat isn’t overpowering, SEED THEM! For fuck’s sake if you don’t do that you could have a real heat bomb on your hands. Also, using fresh peppers as opposed to dried will ensure more pepper flavor and some heat. Dried peppers can add a neat depth you don’t get from fresh but are also very hard to control the heat with.

Realizing that all of that is not super helpful since you don’t actually have a proper starting point, here are some dosing rates for various spices/fruits that we use at the brewery. For times where we want fruit to be present but subdued, we use about 0.3-0.4oz/5 gallon. If we want it to be more pronounced, we double the rate. Spices, like coriander, we dose at about 0.15oz/5 gallon. Peppers are the trickiest guys since they can overtake pretty quickly, so we start pretty low, about 0.3oz/5 gallon of a fresh, seeded less spicy pepper (like jalapeno or serrano). Spicier peppers, like habanero, we start with close to 0.1oz/5 gallon.

Question: Settle an argument for me: My friend thinks that taking a lot of classes, like dance and crossfit and language classes, automatically makes you more interesting because you simply learn a lot. I think you can be a learned, uninteresting person if you can’t do anything with it than describe your skills at parties. So can you be a well-educated person who is also boring, or does all this knowledge automatically make you an interesting person?

Ruby: Absolutely you can be well-educated and know a lot of random (probably unnecessary) shit about a lot of things but be an absolute bore. Let’s do a hypothetical here.

Say your at a friend’s house for a party and you’re talking to a bunch of people and somehow fitness comes up. Friend A starts talking about how they do crossfit and how many burpees, whatever the fuck THAT is, they do every morning or other morning or whatever and that’s the end of the story. I’m gonna guess that you’re not a total slob and that your toilet bowl contains about the exact number of shits you give about that story. If it’s more than zero for either one, we’ve got bigger issues to talk about here. Conversely, Friend B discusses how many flurpees he’s done and then talks about how it helped him train for a competition or an Iron Man or some shit like that and then you get to talk about where those events took him and people he’s met. Okay, that’s actually interesting because it’s not just something he needlessly does or knows. It’s a training exercise for him to be able to do something cool that he cares about that also leads to more than just “and that’s how many gerpees I did this morning at the gym.” THAT, my friend is what makes a person interesting: facts+passion+experiences.

Go and broaden your horizons, definitely. Take classes, read articles, train for events, practice your instrument, WHATEVER IT IS YOU WANT TO DO! But just doing them to do them so you can be interesting isn’t going to help you on that front. It will probably help you be more interesting if you are doing them because you enjoy it and are actually going to do more than just the rote performance of it, but then again, if you really like it, do you really give a fuck?

Question: I want to cut down all the trees in my yard and replace them with fruit trees. My wife says it’ll be too ugly for the first two years and too much work after that to be worth it. What do you think? To fruit or not to fruit?

Ruby: No bullshit here, my sister’s a florist and this will kill her, but plants you can’t eat are a waste of cultivable soil that could be used for edible plants. So, fruit. Fruit the fucking shit out of your yard. You want fresh fruit? BAM, you got it. Jams? Buy a few jars and then POOF, Smucker’s is for assholes. Need another hobby? Ferment it and make wine ya dingus! Let’s see your azaleas do that.


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