#Skelia_talks with Roman, QA Engineer at Skelia Lviv
Is chilling with friends and having drinks your idea of a perfect after-work night? Roman from Skelia Lviv knows how to make that night more exciting – with a homemade beer. Curious how home brewing works? What are the most unusual beer flavors? What types of beer are trending? Roman shares with us how he’s got into making beer and what are the details of his ‘yeast magic.’
- Hi Roman! Tell us a bit about yourself.
- Hi! I’ve been working at Skelia as a QA engineer for over a year, on quite an exciting project. My team creates solutions that streamline the processes of a large transportation company.
- Tell us about your brewing hobby: how did it start and why beer?
- Well, engineers love making something by hand. It’s super-gratifying, to make some cool products that you can show to others and that has a practical or aesthetical value. Brewing is not my first hobby of this kind but it brings me the most enjoyment: I get the end product which people like and share it with others. I like that beer brewing has different layers, it includes craftwork, electronics, manipulation with water. In brewing, I managed to utilize different skills gained thanks to previous hobbies. But before anything else, I just like the process and my friends can appreciate the result
- How did you start making beer?
- It has actually started from my brother-in-law’s idea. He’s a fan of homemade products and is always searching for interesting recipes. Once he stumbled upon a homemade beer recipe, tried it out, and shared the recipe with me. That’s how I got into it. I researched the theoretical aspects and then made my first beer – and I liked it. From that moment on, I found myself immersed in this process. It’s been over two years now.
- What was that very first beer you made?
- American Pale Ale. It was made from a brewing kit bought online. Great we have such stores that can give you an easy start.
- Tell a bit more about the process itself.
- As for the equipment, for starters, I borrowed a big pot and a filter from my brother-in-law. Simply put, the process is the following: you scald the grains with water and let the sugars dissolve. You have to get the wort as a result. The wort is then fermented with yeast – and voila, you have the beer. It’s even possible to do it having just a big cooking pot, a dipper, and some cheesecloth. It’s the magic of yeast that enables the whole process – this is what allowed us, humans, to have alcohol in general.
- So after you made the first beer, what went next?
- I explored different recipes and ingredients and discovered various technicalities of brewing. With the first beer, I didn’t even understand the proportion of ingredients, it was just a kit. I started learning and making my own recipes. I experimented a lot and still do. It’s interesting to brew different styles of beer, changing something or adding something new. There are classical beer formulations: British, German, and Czech beers all have their own features that were incorporated in all major recipes. So you certainly should follow some basics but when you start adding unusual components, the process becomes more of a craft.
- How often do you brew?
- I usually make the beer which I like and choose one to suit a season or occasion. So it depends: I can brew once a week or once a month. Sometimes, it’s hard to find some privacy at home but I try to brew at any opportunity.
- What brewing techniques do you like?
- I like more malty, full body styles of beers. For example, Indian Pale Ale and American Pale Ale, which are very popular now, have specific sourness and interesting flavors. I like it when you can feel the flavor of mango, passion fruit, lime, or grapefruit in beer.
The US are leaders in planting new sorts of hops, they pioneered this type of brewing. I like it more when you can feel the malt. The combination of malt and hops is the essence of beer’s taste so there has to be a balance between those components, they should complement each other. If the beer is heavy (7-8%), it contains more malt and needs more hops for the balance.
I also like Belgian beer; Belgium is known for a long-lived culture of brewing. Their beer is unique in its use of yeast: it’s a full-bodied beer and it’s hard to drink lots of it at once. There are so many different kinds of beer that you can find a suitable one for each and every mood.
- Are there any norms for each kind of beer?
- Sure, there are style guides that include a variety of parameters such as a color range, sourness, and strength. The strength naturally influences the flavor: the heavier is the beer, the richer is its taste. There are even beers with only 2%, popular in the US, but making a low-strength beer with a rich flavor is quite hard.
- Tell about the beer you made for Skelia’s 10th anniversary.
- I chose two types of beer for the occasion. First, a typical Belgian recipe with coriander and orange peel – wheat beer, perfect for summer. And second, American Pale Ale with more hops but still not that heavy.
- What type of beer was the hardest to make?
- I suppose wheat beers: they require constant control and it’s hard to filter them. High-gravity beers are also quite complicated to make. I wasn’t sure about them but after a while, I did try and succeeded. I can’t say I feel like a total brewing pro but I have a strong interest in the process. I also like sour beers which are trendy now. They are made using wild yeast and the result is always unpredictable. This is the experiment I’m not ready for yet.
- What exotic types of beer you’d like to try, or have already tried brewing?
- Craft beer brewing introduced lots of different flavors, including some unexpected combinations, for example, there are beers with bacon, pickles, or beetroot flavors. Beetroot is actually often used in brewing but for the sake of color.
A particular beer I especially enjoyed brewing was a kind of Christmas beer with lots of nutmegs, cinnamon, and coriander, fermented with a specific type of yeast. My friends appreciated this beer and admitted it tasted like honey with wine – despite it didn’t contain any honey or grapes.
Another interesting thing, popular now, is oenobeer: it’s made by adding the wort to mashed grapes. Wine yeast is combined with beer yeast so it’s kind of a mix of wine and beer. I did this experiment but not quite successfully.
- Is there any brewers’ community to share the experience?
- It sure does. I know a lot of home brewers from all around Ukraine and we have different groups in Telegram and Facebook. I also keep an eye on the international tendencies, especially regarding new equipment. I even read a Ukrainian magazine dedicated to brewing but it’s targeted rather at big breweries. Home brewing is not that active here and many people simply don’t know it’s possible to make beer at home. I’d like for our community to grow.
- What are your plans and goals?
- I plan on brewing more and maybe trying to have my beer sold somewhere. I want to experiment, add some ingredients to classical recipes – for example, make Blanche with a lime character or Porter with buckwheat notes. I’m also interested in brewing mead: it’s created by fermenting honey with yeast. It tastes somehow like beer but has a stronger, unique flavor. There’s room for experimenting with different sorts of honey, hops, and herbs. Various herbs (thyme, wormwood, plantains, elder) were often used for making liquors but now it’s a forgotten tradition.
- What would you advise to brewing newcomers?
- It’s not a problem to find the information you need, it’s more important to find the motivation. I’d say you need to find a minimal starter kit and make your first beer – and go further from there. I’ve noticed newbies might be scared off by the videos made by pros who make beer with lots of professional equipment. You don’t need the equipment to start. Beer is a simple drink that has well-established traditional recipes: start from the basics and then experiment with craft beers. Make a basic beer first and share it with your friends – this will be your perfect start.