Food & Drink

Something's Brewing with George Hummel

Proving beer lovers can be productive members of society, Philly's own homebrew honcho George Hummel just dropped a guide/ recipe book giving you 200+ ideas for create-able suds, then sat down to give us the lowdown on the tome, dish a few home-brew tips, and share the straight story on the St. Pauli Girl

So this book's got 200 recipes. What all is in there?We're covering everything from conventional microbrew-style pale ales to stuff like a cream ale or an American light lager

Speaking of that, if someone was going to try and replicate a mass-produced American beer, what's it take?That is a good question. Truly is. It's actually one of the hardest styles of beer to produce. The issue is that it has no flavor, and the slightest of flaws in a beverage with no flavor is very noticeable. Whereas you put the same slight off flavor into a stout that's got tons of big malt flavors and big bitter hop flavors and all kinds of roasty-toasty aromas, you might not even notice it. So tasteless beer is not very forgiving. Although very boring to drink, it's actually something that really tests the skill of a brewer. And I certainly respect the skills of brewers that can produce beers that are...that flavorless

What is the best recent trend in beer that you've seen?I'm really happy to see a crying out for the return to some session-able beers. I'm not against unusual beers, and I'm not against double IPAs, don't get me wrong, I love that stuff. But sometimes it's nice to just have a beer you can have three or four of with your friends and watch a ball game. There's nothing wrong with "drinkable". And for that, you need a moderate alcohol, and not tons and tons of flavor, but it shouldn't be devoid of flavor. So things like pale ales and British light ales are starting to regain some appreciation that might've been lost.

What's your best tip for a first-time home brewer?Sanitize everything that comes in contact with the beer wort. We can talk about flavors until the cows come home, and you're allowed to like what you like and not like what you don't like, and that's all well and good, but if it's got bugs in it, nobody's going to like it

What's the strongest ABV beer you've ever made, and does beer ever start to taste gross or boozy at some point, or is that impossible?It is quite possible, I've seen it. The biggest I've ever brewed is a mead/beer combo called Bertha. When I attempted to take a hydrometer reading, the hydrometer fell over. No idea how strong it was. It took five years to carbonate, and fifteen years later it tasted wonderful

How do you think Philadelphia got to be such a strong beer city?I'd say the prominent factor that really put us completely over the top, besides the annual visits from Michael Jackson -- the beer writer, not the pedophile -- is probably Tom Peters at Monk's Cafe. He introduced a lot of interesting stuff, bringing the first draft Belgian beers to America, debuting more beers than you can probably list in your piece, and introducing more brewers to them

Which country has the most awesome beer drinkers?Come on! Come on! What's so exciting about what goes on in Philadelphia, and the US, is that we're seeing it all. We're seeing the best from Europe, we're seeing the best from the West Coast, and we've got our own thing going on. In Europe, they just make the same classic styles they've always made, while over here we're recombining stuff and being creative, and you see a lot more interesting exciting innovations come through here. I think American beer drinkers are the best

What's a beer you would've drank while younger that would embarrass you now?Kaier's

That bad, huh?It was a bargain brand from Schmidt's, and it was $5 and change for a case of returnable pounders. And that's why they got bought

Would you ever sleep with the St. Pauli Girl?No

You're aware she's a hooker, right?Yes.