Greenville, Tennessee resident Mark Valk started home brewing in college, although he gave up after a few “bad ‘first tries’ ” only to start again in 2002 when his brother saw an advertisement for a homebrew club.
“In college I saw a homebrew supply shop along the road and stopped in to see what it was all about,” says Mark, “I thought it was a cool idea (and advertised as a cheap way to make ‘good’ beer) I was mainly drinking cheap commercial beers of the time due to lack of income and because it seemed to be the normal thing of college students. So, I guess interest in a novel idea at the time and the desire to save a buck got me into it. It is funny looking at it now. While I still think it is a great idea, it is not so novel anymore… and if you count my time in building equipment, gadgets, and the actual brewing it will never be a ‘cheap’ way for me to have good beer.”
Mark is a member of the State of Franklin Homebrewers club and has learnt a lot from them. Mark says that he learnt to brew by reading “a few books and learned a tremendous amount from the brew club I joined. The folks there talked very openly about brewing topics and invited newcomers to come watch them brew”
Mark is quite a well-read brewer: “I started out with a notebook that my homebrew club had compiled for those that went to their beginner brewing class. From there I read How to Brew by John Palmer and Brew Ware by Lutzen and Stevens. Theses gave me some great basics with the extract beers I was brewing and gave me a taste of all the gadgets one can make to go along with beer making. As I got more into the process I read Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels, Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher and the New Brewing Lager Beer by Gregory Noonan. My favorite book so far is Randy Mosher’s book just mentioned. It has a mix of history, education, philosophy, and a wicked sense of humor. I have bought a few more but they are more scientific than my current level of brewing requires (i.e. they are a bit dry to read and they are beyond what I understand of the process at the moment.)”
To someone wanting to get involved in home brewing Mark says, “I would recommend two things…first, go buy a damned kit and do it! Don’t worry about having the ideal kit or equipment, and don’t worry about messing up your first batch. It is going to happen sooner or later (well, for most of us anyway) so you may as well get it done with. Even if the first batch is not that great, if you are lured by the aroma of the boiling wort and the mystique of yeast churning in a fermenter then you have the makings of an enjoyable hobby at the very least. The second thing I would recommend is to join a home brew club. The people you meet and the atmosphere make the desire to learn more about brewing almost certain.”
In conclusion, Mark has this to say about the joys of the home brewing hobby: “I think brewing can appeal to many different types of people. From extracts to all-grain, plastic buckets to stainless steel fermenters, from buy-and-brew to build-and-brew, brewing can suit the budget and time constraints of anyone looking for a worthwhile hobby or special interest. In addition you get to meet really great people with the same interests (particularly but not exclusively in regard to clubs) Also, with any special diversion of the daily routine, it can be relaxing and gratifying.”
You can find details about Mark’s own home brewer at his website at http://users.adelphia.net/~markvalk/brew.htm