For Zach T., Brew Day means beer, bags and BBQ for all! Well, almost everyone…
It’s easy to write off a four-year-old as a beer connoisseur, but when it comes to Brew Day, no one is more excited than Nora. “Her Brew Day excitement has been immortalized,” laughs her dad. While she’s still 17 years away from her first legal sip, Nora gets a front row seat to every aspect of brewing Saturdays…and a couple of naps in between.
If you told Zach Trepanier two years ago that he would own a single-vessel Solo brewing system and be legit creating his own beers, he would have said you were nuts. “I had been to a couple Brew Days at my friend’s house, and I thought it looked fun, but what always stopped me from pursuing this as a hobby was that it seemed like the whole thing would be too complicated,” he remembers. “I wasn’t exactly looking for a hobby that would be all-consuming. I already have two kids, a wife and a dog,” he chuckles. Still, the idea of homebrewing continued to percolate.
“I worked in restaurants throughout high school and college, so I really developed an interest in cooking,” Zach recalls. “I like creating my own recipes, pairing flavors and experimenting. Brewing seemed like something that would be similar.” When the Spike Solo came out last June, Zach decided to give it a go. “It seemed like the perfect stepping stone into the hobby.” He continues, “The product education on the website also helped steer the decision. The rest of the buying process was relatively uneventful…which is exactly what you want from a substantial retail purchase!”
Beers, Bags and BBQ
It didn’t take long for Zach to get the hang of things. It helped that the Solo is super easy to clean and operate, and it comes brew-ready right out of the box. “I’ve only been at it for about a year, but the link between beer and food became very apparent,” he laughs. “As you experiment with different recipes and techniques, you start to understand how ingredients interact with one another and what that might mean for your final product. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, you find something new to tweak.” He adds, “It doesn’t hurt that now I have something else to tinker with while there is meat on the smoker.”
Actually, smoked meat is now considered a Brew Day staple. Apart from having a new fun hobby that quenches your thirst every two to four(ish) weeks, the lure of making beer is all about the communal aspect of a Brew Day. “For BBQ gatherings, you end up with a handful of guys crowded around a hot grill, beer in hand, entranced by the charred meat,” Zach says. “But for a Brew Day, everyone gets in on the action! My daughter bounces around the house in the morning announcing to all that Brew Day is here and then kicks off the ceremony by dropping in the grain,” he says. “Dad, who’s coming over? When will they be here? What are we cooking? When can I pour in the grain? She gets more excited about people coming over for Brew Day than a trip to the park!”
Little known fact about Spike, the tagline “It’s Brew Day” was actually coined by little Nora herself. “She doesn’t get to drink any beer, but even a four-year-old can see why Brew Days are the best,” Zach says. The day is about people coming over to hang out, drink, eat, catch up and play an overly competitive game of bags. “It’s just like any other summer patio get-together but with a little more excitement.” Zach’s son, Owen, is still new to the hobby, but he’s got some time, after all, he’s only 16 months old.
A typical Trepanier Brew Day can have anywhere between seven and fifteen men, women, kids and pets running around, but that’s all part of the fun. “My buddies pitch in as brewing assistants and over-eager taste testers of previous Brew Day batches, and my dog Rocco is on the spot to help clean up any spent grain he can get his paws on,” Zach says.
When it comes to brewing, Zach isn’t pursuing perfection—he’s aiming for consistency. “The only version of perfect I’m really pursuing is trying to be consistent and repeatable in my process and hitting my numbers. It took me about four to five batches before I felt like my process was sound. I understood what I was doing and came pretty close to hitting my numbers.”
“Just like in cooking, the term perfect is so subjective. So whether or not a beer was ever perfect? I don’t know; however, I do know that one was bad,” he laughs. “Most of the comments I get from everyone who tries my beers is, 'I would order this at a bar.' To me, that’s close enough to perfect.”
Zach’s favorite original beer to date is a Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA imposter with a couple tweaks. “We called my version Summer Dreaming, as we made it in Winter and thought it would be perfect for a patio and Summer sunshine.” He likes to draw inspiration from past craft beer favorites. “I think the best beer I’ve ever tried is Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout…and yes I still think about it. I haven’t yet tried to replicate it by making it at home because there’s a piece of me that doesn’t want to be let down,” he reminisces.
When asked what the one piece of advice would be for someone looking to get into homebrewing, Zach says, “Don’t be intimidated by it. You get the hang of the process and your equipment pretty quick and rarely will you make beer worthy of the drain. I’ve only had one batch that qualified for disposal.” He continues, “Get the right equipment right out of the chute, otherwise you’ll mess around buying two or three of the cheaper options, only to wish that you had gotten the stainless one right away.”
“If you’re looking for a new hobby to check out or a way to make Brew Day a little easier and more enjoyable, you can’t go wrong with the Spike Solo. Take it from a guy who just wrapped up a Hazy IPA, brisket and a tray full of chicken wings all in one afternoon.”