Brewer Bytes with Southern Star Brewing Co.
An Interview with Jeff Hamm, Head Brewer
Posted on 11/27/2012 by Chops
When American beer fans think of the top regions for great craft beer, Texas rarely enters the conversation. Fortunately for the region's thirsty residents, breweries like Southern Star are working to change that perception. Not only are they infusing the area with delicious craft beers like their Pine Belt Pale Ale flagship, but they are also embracing the forward-thinking concept of canned nectar. Southern Star is still a relatively young brewery, having only started production in March of 2008. But, their undeniable impact is being felt far and wide. We recently caught up with Head Brewer Jeff Hamm, who was kind enough to offer up some Brewer Bytes.
What inspired you to get into brewing?
I was inspired during a family trip to Germany when I was 18 years old. Sitting in the Marienplatz in Munich having pre buy-out big four Lagers and Hefe was magical to me. I was always a big history dork and to see first hand how integrated beer was in the social fabricate and history of Germany was inspiring. I made my decision right there and never looked back.
What was your worst brewing experience?
The first time brewing one of our specialties, Blind Ambition stands out as the worst day ever for me in a brewery. The beer had a relatively long schedule to begin with, 3 temp rests and a 2 hour boil with a SG of around 18 P brewing 2 batches. Our brewhouse was not exactly built to do anything but single step infusion but we have rigged it up to. On that particular day the mash mixer/rake didn't appreciate moving 1400 lbs of thick mash and completely dislocated from the mash/lauter tun. It ended up being about an 18 hour day. The beer turned out great though. Maybe it was all of the hate infused into it.
What is your favorite beer or style to brew?
I really enjoy brewing German and Czech lagers of any kind. Lagers have attracted such hostility in the modern craft world but in my opinion they truly are the pinnacle of brewing achievement. When designing them, there is nothing to hide behind. Your process and attention to detail must be spot on in every aspect. A good lager is not bland and fizzy but complex and robust. It is up to the drinker to look past his own expectations for dominant flavors and appreciate the subtleties.
What are your favorite beers outside of your own?
This answer changes a lot but right now I'm hooked on Aventinus. Cellar that thing for a year and it is probably the best beer in the world. Carlsberg can send me a cease and desist notice if they want.
What advice would you give to a new craft beer drinker?
Don't become a snob. Beer snobbery in my opinion is one of the worst things happening to craft beer since raspberry wheat. Beer is not wine and should not aspire to be like wine. Take every sip with an open mind and don't educate yourself solely with forums and at craft beer bars. Pick up a technical brewing book. Work your way through the classic beer style series. Strive to learn which beers are good based on balance, quality of fermentation, recipe development and consistency. Just because a bottle of beer is 60 bucks on ebay doesn't mean its good. In my opinion, a sign of the advanced craft beer drinker would be ordering a Miller Lite in order to discuss the effects of using hop extract on flavor stability rather than whole flowers. Or something dorky like that.