Micro-Micro: Crafty Brewing

Words: Brittany Joy Daugherty

Photos: A.W. Lippert and Brittany Joy Daugherty

I walk into the potent aroma of barley & hops simmering in the air. A humble apartment on the North End of town boasts cabinets-turned-carboy fermentation holding spaces and an office closet transformed into a beer cellar.

Most Coloradans, ladies and gents alike, would consider this apartment to be heaven on earth. This particular slice of heaven happens to belong to A.W. Lippert, an active homebrewer. A. W. is no stranger to good beer. He grew up in Colorado Springs and spent his college years in the great Pacific Northwest, another region where craft beer flows like Rocky and Cascade snowmelt. Spending his days as an entrepreneur in the wealth management industry and weekends conquering 14’ers and sharing his gourmet cooking skills with family and friends, his propensity for homebrewing transpired organically as a result of his roots and environment.

Between his older brother--who lived in the Northeast--and longtime girlfriend living in Colorado, the three of them had access to the most desirable craft beers in the country. Bubble wrapping their choice craft beers from their respective regions and packing them in their suitcases on trips to visit one another became a tradition.  

"Whether it’s Russian River, North Coast, Deschutes on the West coast, Founder's, The Alchemist, Southern Tier in the upper Midwest/East coast, or the bountiful overabundance of awesome Colorado beers like Odell IPA/Mercenary IPA, Oskar Blues’ Ten FIDY, Great Divide's Grand Cru or Oatmeal Stout-to name only a few favorites--all hold similar underlying characteristics while being drastically different on the surface,” A.W. explains.  He describes the similar underlying characteristic as being an extreme focus on quality coupled with highly adventurous brewers--traits the beer industry here in the states totally lacked until about a decade ago."

A.W.'s interest and appreciation for craft beers continued to grow over time and thus inspired his journey into the art and craft of homebrewing. When asked what he enjoys most about the process of homebrewing and why he chooses this craft when Colorado already offers an intriguing craft beer selection, A. W. responds,

“The dominant source of enjoyment I get from brewing beer is carrying on the tradition started by medieval monks and friars, by combining a handful of ordinary ingredients and creating something that can be quite grandiose on some rare occasions.  Also, I usually end up drinking very little of my own brew, which actually astonishes me with brewing six gallon batches at a time. They are generally a favorite gift amongst friends and family.”

In 2009, A.W. gave his first homebrewing attempt a go with a recipe for an Amber Ale. He admits it was not his best brew, but his first nonetheless. After dabbling with a variety of different recipes and complexities, he became further intrigued with the craft and decided to take a chance at seeing what the public thought of his ability to brew craft beer when he entered into Milwaukee’s Midwinter Homebrew Competition. Being that he was in Colorado at the time, he put his trust in bubble wrap and a cardboard box to get his hand-packaged bottles safely to the city known for its brewing traditions.

A.W. received notice that his Holy Mackerel Brown Ale, which he said was named in part because of its absurdity, but also because the ale was technically created to be an English brown and a tribute to those “salty sea dog fisherman”, earned a bronze medal for overall flavor, complexity and enjoyability in a competition of a few hundred participants from across the nation. With the medal  he also received handwritten critiques from the judges who were in charge of the tastings and ratings of the beers.

A.W. was generous enough to share his honorable Holy Mackerel Brown Ale recipe with readers here:

6.75lbs of Briess Liquid Malt Extract Lite
4 oz. of British 2-rox pale ale malt
.75lb corn sugar
1lb crystal malt 135
5 oz. chocolate malt
1oz. roasted barley
1 tsp. Irish moss
8oz Fuggles hops (60 minutes)
2oz. Kent Goldings hops (15 minutes)
005 British Ale yeast
8.5 oz. of 100% pure, dark amber, maple syrup (5 minutes)
3.5 oz. of wildflower honey (secondary fermentation)

Since his start with the craft five years ago, A.W. has focused on brewing low volume with a total of ten craft homebrews to his name – putting a lot of thought, research and heart into each and every one is more important to him than mass-producing. Being an old soul, he tapped into his interest of medieval traditions and gave mead making – a quasi wine/beer made from honey – a whirl. He has brewed about ten meads in total including: cinnamon apple tea, black currant, blackberry, pear, and rhodomel mead (a Roman tradition where mead is soaked in rose petals) and currently has apple pie mead, made with vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks, fermenting.

I was given a sample of his black currant mead and it just so happened to be licking-the-bottom-of-the-glass delicious. Well done, sir.

A.W. has kept a handmade brewing journal that he first started in college with his first homebrew that includes all of his recipes, taste notes, pairing suggestions, photos and more. “In a house fire, dooms-day type scenario, I’d grab my sweetheart (piggy-back style), some family photos, and my homebrew journal – the irreplaceable things – and all would be well."

A.W. has always made it a priority to seek out the purest ingredients for his brews, which he often finds locally at HiCountry Homebrew in Monument, Colorado. He explains that the owner, Woody, is a homebrewer himself and extremely knowledgeable about the craft .”He is also always eager to crack open your latest homebrew in the store, should you bring one with you, and examine it in detail with you, says A.W.“Nothing like sipping homebrew beer at 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning, planning your next recipe with a brewing sage like Woody to get your weekend started off on the right foot.”

When I peek into the cabinet-turned-carboy fermentation zone, I saw a dark, chocolaty, full-bodied liquid. Alexander explained that this baby was ready to bottle, so we waste no time and get a plethora of empty glass beer bottles of every shape and size sanitized and ready to be filled. Of course, we popped the top off a Trappistes Rochefort 10 Belgium Ale and took small sips out of snifters to set the tone.

It is clear from the get-go that the bottling process is made for two people. A.W. lined up the various brown glass bottles in a cardboard box and then pulled up a kitchen chair beside the counter to set the box on. He configures the carboy full of decadent, dark, fermented liquid (a.k.a double chocolate imperial stout) on his kitchen countertop next to the chair and pulls the top off of the carboy. After sanitizing everything obsessively, he places a length of tubing into the carboy and hands the other end of it to me to place into the first thirsty bottle. Then the pumping begins. After several pumps to get the liquid flowing via pressure, everything became streamlined and all of the glass bottles were filled to the brim with delicious homebrew in no time.

A.W. said he, along with his lady friend and a good guy friend had brewed this last September in an attempt to have a robust, chocolate beer in time for Valentine’s Day; unfortunately the yeast got a little lethargic so the beer has needed extra time to ferment. On the plus side, a longer fermentation allowed for the flavors to marry together for a while longer. He says he expects this beer to be quite boozy estimating a 12% ABV (alcohol by volume). When asked what he plans to name it, he assuredly says he won't know its name until the first true sip.

I ask if I can partake in a sipping party once the beer is ready. He ever-so-kindly reminds me that I live in that humble apartment on the North End of town that boasts cabinets-turned-carboy fermentation zone and an office closet transformed into a beer cellar. I shake my head, place my pen down on my journal pad, take a sip of my beer and respond, “I do indeed. Lucky me.”