Monday, September 20, 2010

Bad homebrew Shop Advice (Rant)

I didn't have any hombrew store shots, so here are some sacks of malt at a brewery...There are some great homebrew stores out there, but in my experience (not to mention the stories I've heard) the amount of bad information some store owners and employees give out is staggering.  Especially when the most common argument for shopping locally rather than online is the advice you get.

A few gems:

Liquid yeast doesn't need a stater unless you are brewing a barleywine.

"You should bottle straight out of the carboy. Bottling buckets are known for contamination and there's no way to truly sanitize them. If you use a bottling bucket, you WILL get an infection."

Three piece airlocks are obsolete!

"They tell me I’m going to infect my entire house and unless I want to only brew Lambic styles, I should stay away."

I don't know if these guys stopped reading brewing books in 1987, or if they've just drank a few too many homebrews over the last few decades. It seems like if this was your job and your passion you should put a bit more effort into staying on top of the latest trends, techniques, and ingredients.  The better the advice is you give, the more brewing success people will have, and the more repeat brewers/business you will create.

Luckily these days I'm happy to talk to Derek the owner of My LHBS in Falls Church VA, and the whole gang at Maryland Homebrew in Columbia MD.  I won't say I always agree with the advice they give, but most of the people I've talked to at these two shops really seem to know what they are doing (although it is pretty rare I go in looking for advice these days).

If you've got a good homebrew store horror story post a comment and let the rest of us hear it.


kmudrick said...

[me, looking through the hop pile for something interesting to dry hop a belgian pale ale with]

"belgians? you don't dry hop a belgian"


Unknown said...

I've akways had great advice from my LHBS in Aurora, CO. The staff is well educated in both wine and beer making, some even make cheese! Although their experience is gained mostly from reading books and bulletin boards, thwy also brew quite a bit and even have sours brewing on the counter next to regular ales. The best advicde I've received when asking about brewing with a weird fruit, "Just do it. Have fun". That's what it is all about!

oldwoman said...

'Acid malt and honey malt are exactly the same, it's just marketing'

Tim said...

In regards to my single strain B. Lambicus beer, "I wonder if bacteria actually produces any alcohol."

I won't even say the city where that occurred because, to the credit of the owners, that guy no longer works at that LHBS.

Andrei said...

"Bottling bucket? That will introduce oxidation. Just add the sugar solution to secondary and bottle out of that."

"Belgian Pilsen Malt? Yeah, we have that, but it's no good. German Pilsner one is better."

danger said...

the first time i ever went to a homebrew store to get started i asked about going all grain. at least 3 employees argued against it. they said it was unnecessary and extract (their over-priced kits) was more than enough to make high quality, award winning beers. i didn't go back for probably a year. norther brewer saved me.

Thomas said...

I had to work with a guy who had a serious lack of knowledge issue. Thankfully he eventually got himself fired. I would offer this quick test is ask the shop guy what the last book they read on homebrewing and how recently, if it was more than six months I wouldn't be keen to trust, you have to stay active on your reading. If the book they mention has been in print more than 10 years and they weren't doing some historical research I would also look for advice elsewhere. I know not everyone is a reader, but it's a check to see if they are still updating their knowledge base.

Anonymous said...

Me: "What level toast would you recommend for a mead on oak chips?"

LHBS Rep: "Hmmm, never heard of aging mead on oak before."

Anonymous said...

I normally try to buy my liquid yeast from my local homebrew shop to let him carry the shipping and refrigeration costs for this item. I asked him to include a lambic yeast for me in his next order. His reply was that he would not let these anywhere near his shop. At the same time he has a back room completely covered in grain dust from milling.

jaymo said...

Three from the same guy:

1) I'm worried that the packs of brett will infect the other yeast through the foil.

2) Brett can fly up to 1500' from one carboy to another. You can infect your neighbor's beer.

3) Don't worry about the year old expiration date on those. I brew with old yeast all the time. It just takes a little longer to swell up before you pitch it.

Matt said...

1. Full wort boils have nothing to do with hop utilization

2. Most styles you should under-pitch the yeast

3. There's no difference between 2 row and 6 row

All from the same guy at the same shop all right when I was starting out. Man, I hate that guy.

Mark said...

This one guy is from Belgium. He loves commercial belgian ales, but mostly makes meads and fruit wines.

He came up to me at a recent beer tasting and says, "I have this great recipe for Chimay Blue, but it takes 18 months to make. A 6 month primary, followed by a 12 month secondary. I would make way more strong belgian ales if they didn't take so damn long."

I told him, "I make similar beers that are bottled and carbonated in 6 weeks time, but of course they will improve with age. Chimay themselves would follow a similar timeline (I didn't have my copy of Brew Like a Monk with me). I don't see why you couldn't follow a similar process."

He says, "because that is what the recipe says."

Can't argue with that logic I guess...

Seanywonton said...

You just reminded me that I need to call my LHBS and tell them they overcharged me for some yeast!

So many bad, bad stories I could tell, from various shops. But if the shop owner is making beers that taste like rocket fuel and nail polish and handing them out as samples, that is probably consistent with his brewing knowledge. (Just to be clear, that did not happen in Portland).

Also according to about half the homebrew shops worldwide, brettanomyces is a bacteria.

BMan1113VR said...

Two on dry hopping:

"You will get horrible grassy flavors if you let the beer dry hop for longer than two days."

"I don't recommend using whole leaf hops for dry hopping, I like to use them in the boil. I would only use pellets for dryhopping"

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Lots of good stories (that is to say, so much bad advice). I wish more homebrew stores gave out samples, seems like the best way to gauge whether or not their advice is to be trusted.

xerotime said...

"Just use table sugar to make your yeast starter"

Trenton said...

"But if you use a freezer with thermostat as a fermentation chamber, you'll be spending more money making beer than it costs to buy it. So what's the point of that?"

Seanywonton said...

Oh yeah, we forgot the most important and prevalent one:

You can make great ales using Cali ale yeast fermented at 75-80 degrees.

WhyBeNormal said...

Me, during a homrewing class at the shop: "What happens if you don't get the wort chilled quickly enough?"

Instructor/BJCPJudge: "Nothing, it won't hurt it."

Anonymous said...

You should also try Annapolis Homebrew in Severna Park, MD. Free samples on tap and good advice.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I went to Annapolis Hombrew once a couple years ago when I was visiting my uncle who lives in the same town. It was fine, but my experience wasn't good enough to justify an extra 20 minute drive each way.

Ry Parcell said...

This is about two years too late for this main thread by local shop person told me TODAY that using star san on tubes, rubber bungs, & airlocks imparts a robust flavor and that you should only use it on glass. She then tried to sell me one step and or iodophore. Never had a problem with that.

Anonymous said...

My local here in Central VA kills me sometimes. Great guy, excellent shop with everything, including every draft beer piece of equipment ever made or available.

I've been going there for 2 years, get all my grains from him, and I figure I brew AG 3 times a month or so.

Anyway, I bring a buddy in to source some tubing, a valve, and other odds and ends for a batch sparge rectangular cooler rig IDENTICAL to my own that has worked flawlessly for countless batches..

When the owner finds out we were going to use a hose raid, I could feel it coming. "you're not gonna use that are you?? I've heard nothing but horror stories about those things!"

Here's my rant
1. Im still here buying stuff from you
2. Ive bought countless AG batches from you, how many would it take before I maybe complained to you about my process, maybe even blame your mill?

All in all, I just get the feeling that these mom and pop shops are so busy running the store, which I have no doubt they are, that learning new or even different brewing methods is last on their list of priorities. So while I get that, I wish they wouldn't pretend to know it all or condescend when they clearly don't know it all.

kcschmitt said...

When asking about Belgian yeast strains. "I don't like Belgian beers so I don't know. They're gross."

Eric Behm said...

This was a great post, and I know it's a little old, but I have experienced this sort of thing as well. (Of course)

My top ones that I can remember:

"You want to brew a really strong starter to match really strong beers"

"The lower the mash temp, the less fermentable your beer will be"

"Starters are a waste of time"