I figure there are a couple of reasons behind my romance with making beer at home. I’m no food scientist, but my grandfather was. He actually was very well respected in the industrial food industry (the same industry I work in now.) His achievements were scattered across many aspects of different food arenas including, but not limited to, the development of the first instant mashed potatoes, early forms of what is now Betty Crocker cake mixes, and a personal favorite- Carnation Instant Breakfast. He also played a fundamental role in the development of the manufacturing process of evaporated milk, mainly the chemistry related to putting a dairy product in a metal can. But most importantly he was a part of the team that worked for General Mills during the launch of one of America’s flagship cereals, Cheerios, then called Cheerioats. My dad, now a practicing pediatrician, has a strong chemistry and math background, two things I never thought I would share love for- that is until I realize both play varying roles in making good beer at home. Aside from my family background I feel homebrewing has served a great purpose in my life over the course of the last 11 months since I began this adventure. It has given me a practical avenue for creativity, the challenge of scientific thought, community with others, and many instances of that inexplicable feeling you get when you enjoy a delicious beer that you have created in your own home, with your own two hands (and usually the help of some others).

I began in April of 2009, and have logged a grand total of 17 different beers, with one currently fermenting in the basement, making it 18. At an average yield of 5 gallons per batch, that is approximately 90 gallons of beer!, only 10 shy of the legal homebrewing limit. Since I live with my wife, the limit is actually 200 gallons per year, so I have lots to look forward to in 2010. What’s more is that out of those 90 gallons, I consider only one 5 gallon batch undrinkable, yet I still haven’t brought myself to pour it down the drain in hopes time will do it well. So far it hasn’t.

Since joining forces with the group that comprises The Perfectly Happy Man in late 2009, my love, knowledge, and overall appreciation for beer has grown exponentially. When Taylor asked a few of us about doing a Homebrewing section for the PHM, I couldn’t refuse. Although I have done some scattered blogging about my first year of homebrewing, I wanted a fresh start now that my hobby is in plain view of a larger audience, thanks to the PHM.

You know a bit about my family history, but let me introduce myself. My name is Matt Claus, I’m 27 years old, married to an amazing woman named Vicki, and together we raise our daughter Olivia who is currently a whopping 5 years old. I work for a company in the near west suburbs of Chicago that manufactures bloody mary’s, bbq sauce, cocktail mixes, and concentrated beverages. You’ll see throughout this blog what a blessing it is to work where I do, especially as it relates to homebrewing. I run the purchasing department, comprised of only me, and I like it that way. I buy all the ingredients and packaging necessary for our company to conduct business. To my wife’s dismay, I also occasionally play ping pong and basketball at work, even partake in an annual paintball outing, because that’s just the kind of company we are. We sell to many companies that are directly related to the beer industry, which has been helpful in acquiring necessary equipment and hardware for my fairly basic kegging setup, more on that later.

In early 2009 we purchased our first home in the NW suburbs of Chicago, and it was then, with all this new space and freedom, homebrewing entered my life. Instigated by a simple Mr. Beer kit given to me by my friend Matt for Christmas, my homebrewing hobby has come quite a long way in one year. We made one batch of the Mr. Beer kit, got our whistles wet, and then quickly upgraded to more conventional and advanced homebrewing practices.

You will see that I use the term “we” fairly often, and it refers to a group of friends that has developed over that past year that in one way or another, all take part in the process. Some guys join me in the brewing process, others in the intermediate phases of transferring fermenting batches to secondary containers, and others in the wonderful and tedious bottling process. What’s certain, all of us have enjoyed the final phase, the drinking process. So I can in no way take credit for our achievements, instead chalk it up to a group effort, where I take the reigns on the brewing science aspect of things, but everyone helps in their own way. At this point I need to recognize my partners in crime. The most thanks goes to Eric, who spends a lot of his free time with me in all aspects of brewing; joined by Matt, Noah, and Keith. A shout out also goes out to my brewing brother from across the country, Nate with whom I share and receive tips and tricks. The sense of community that this hobby has fostered has been rewarding enough to keep pressing on, and I think we all agree and look forward.

The posts on this site will vary from quick updates about current batches, to reviews of finished batches, and all things in between. This can include tasting events, parties, sob stories of beers gone bad, special event batches, beer education, backyard hop growing (coming spring 2010!), to a full blown walk-through of making an actual batch of beer. So you’re reading this because you’re interested, and I hope my windy introduction didn’t scare you off, but rather enticed you to learn more and share the ride as we continue on the road we’ve started of making good beer and enjoying all aspects of it together. Check back often, and please please please, use this site as an open forum to ask questions, correct me when I’m wrong, make suggestions, invite yourself over for a brew session or to simply have a beer, or whatever. I will always admit that I am no expert, but I’m anxious to learn and to grow, and to make better beer every time. Welcome.