Monday, November 26, 2012

Profile of a Home Brewer: Will Avery

This is Will. Will is a twinkly-eyed home brewer who I've mentioned in passing as the initiatory agent in my home brew journey. Will is the reason there are carboys in my basement. I'm fairly certain Will is proud of this.

Will isn't just a home brewer. He excels at beer. A sharp intellect, a lucky seven years of experience, and BeerSmith might have something to do with it. 

But Will is also in an "all beer talk all the time" phase of life (punctuated by vitriolic baseball chatter, of course), which is a good thing for his employers even if they do only hire him on part time. [It hasn't escaped Will's attention that this devotional diatribe may not be appreciated by everyone at all times, in particular, his wife. Fortunately for them both, Will seems to have no shortage of equally obsessed (or at least, interested) beer folk at his disposal.]

When he's not being Daddy of the year or brewing in his garage, you can find Will on untappd, at Moondog Growlers (Marietta and Dunwoody), or helping out at The Burnt Hickory Brewery in Kennesaw.

This is Will behind the counter of Moondog where he pours draft beer for people into reusable containers so they can consume it in various stages of undress in their own homes.

These are some of Will's home brews. Pale ales, I think.

The thing you inevitably notice when you are around Will (beyond the boisterous curls and Braves hat) is how relentlessly informed, intelligent, and obsessive he is about his craft. It's hard not to get caught up in a similarly jubilant and beer filtered world view when you're around Will. And when he hands you beers like this one.

This particular afternoon Will and his beer accomplice for the day, Greg, were brewing a sour rye saison, which will take a year to ferment. Whether they're endowed with a serendipitous stamina or have mastered the trick of delayed gratification isn't for me to say, but I can tell you they didn't seem bothered in the least by having to wait three hundred plus days to indulge in the afternoon's hard work. Now those are some patient men. 

The kegs of home brew sitting nearby in the corner of the garage in a tapped out, top loading cooler likely helped curb some anticipation. It's easier to wait on most things with a full glass, I find. 

Or maybe it's because there seems to be so much about the process of brewing that is gratifying in in its own right. The texture and bready aroma of grains flitting about like little beer fairies in the bright sunlight. The heady mix of malt and bitter hop rising up from a steaming barrel of unfermented beer. It is a process characterized by some leisure, not unlike the waiting around for bread to rise as the mysterious process of yeast and calculated heat transforms a soggy mess into something you want to bury your face in. And it makes your house smell good.

Together, Greg and Will crushed several bags of grain in a modified, open-topped coffee grinder operated with a hand drill affixed to the outside of a Home Depot bucket. Will marveled at the dearth of intact husks, assessing the coarsely ground mix with his hands.  

Will's brewing setup is most likely familiar to those of you who indulge in your own home brew. Hops, barrels, and hoses. Camping chairs and carboys. We do our own brewing without the aid of a refractometer (which looks like a miniature spy glass for sailing the inebriated seas), brewing software, and CO2, but they're par for the course in Will's routine brewing process.  

This is one of Will's home brews. He calls it Promised Land Ale. It is excellently balanced, beautifully clear, and if you look closely at this picture taken with Will's camera phone, you might just see the stairway to heaven in the middle of that glass. Or maybe it's just really good beer.

I remember watching Will take this picture, our children nearby, digging holes in the fallow plots of my garden, while Will loudly proclaimed, "Now that's one clear home brew!" and then positioned a bottle of milk into his infant son's mouth. It's an interesting thing, watching someone who can simultaneously parent while being inherently pleased with their own spectacular performance. And home brew. And be super smart. The ladies I know who've popped out heathens (myself included) could take a page from Will's book in the way of self congratulation.

It might read as inflation or arrogance to the unfamiliar, but to anyone willing to invest in Will's friendship, they quickly realize it's more like a vigorous optimism that fuels the congratulatory fire, rather than broad-mouthed boasting. A "bright lights, big city" kind of gaze, the glare of which lets the background fade so you're focused on the refracted light, the golden horizon, the cloudy wisps in an expanse of blue sky. It's a diligent hopefulness that draws people in and makes them, if not happy partners in crime, at least a glad accessory to beer.

This is what Will has to say about fancy beer glasses: 
"Half of what we taste is what we smell, so in that light it makes sense that every beer has an ideal type of glass to drink it from. A beer such as an imperial IPA with tons of aroma is best out of a tulip glass or snifter to focus aromas to your nose before you even drink."

This is what Will has to say about brewing craft beer:
"I have never been a writer, a painter, or a sculptor, but I feel that brewing allows me to express creativity in a different way. I believe that brewing is half art and half science. Without the creative element, your product shows no passion and becomes indistinguishable from a million other beers. Without the science, your beer falls short from a quality standpoint."

Thanks for joining me, friends, for the first ever POAHB (profile of a home brewer). Catchy, right? Until next time, drink up, be merry, and make beer.



  1. Nice article. Now after reading this, I believe that Will is my beero (that's like a hero for beers or something).

    1. You want to start a bromance don't you. I think you'll have to get in line, Mr.

  2. I'm glad you found Covert Hops. I wish I would have had more time to talk. It is really cool to have women brewers around.

    1. As for being a home brewer, I mostly just observe and offer my services of consuming alcohol. I have helped with bottling, and went by Brewmasters not long ago to pickup our order (got a bit of a surprised look when I walked in there!). When I make my own first batch from start to finish, maybe I'll feel more comfortable owning the title of home brewer. My husband and his pal Jeff make some pretty stellar wort concoctions. Hopefully they can make it out to one of your meetings as well. I think they would really dig the culture you've got going. Cheers!

  3. It was nice meeting you, but I totally forgot to introduce myself and socialize more. Two hours went by so fast. I like this blog. I hope you got to meet Jennifer O'Connell. She is a member of

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words. It was great to meet up. Am hoping to get to meet Jennifer too!



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