Introducing our new Homebrew Series where we document and feature local homebrewers using our BackRoads hops and learn about the process, equipment, supplies and most importantly, the beer they brew! Home brewing is becoming a popular hobby for beer enthusiasts and we want to help showcase these men and women who are experimenting and creating their own beer.

Our second homebrew profile features Derek Illman from Monkton Ontario!

Derek, can you tell us about yourself?
I am originally from a small community called Monkton about an hour north of London but have lived in Byron for the last 21 years. I have worked for the Ministry of Transportation for the last 19 years; primarily in the construction office. I am a 52 beer and exercise enthusiast (can't have one without the other) who has recently taken up the awesome sport of cycling.

What are you brewing today?
In short, my brew was called "Experimental" IPA....and it sure was. The grain bill and hop schedule was a bit busy but interesting. Grains included 2-Row, Golden Promise, Carapils, Flaked Wheat and Flaked Oats. The Hop Bill naturally included some fine Backroads products such as Centennial and Cascade....and dry-hopped with a bit of Citra and Mosaic.

Favourite Ontario Craft Brewery?
Well, I have to say that locally, Andersons will always be near and dear to my heart as will Stormstayed. There are so many incredible craft breweries in Ontario, it's hard to pick just one! ;) In terms of vibe, Craftheads in Windsor will always be in my top three.

Favourite style of beer at the moment?
I think I will always be an IPA guy at heart. The variety and creativity within the style coupled with the hop-forward character just keeps me coming back for more.  That being said, there's nothing better than a nice coffee stout or porter on a cold winter's day!

Have your beer tastes evolved and changed over time?
When I was younger, I was definitely a macro guy....Molson primarily.  Then I was introduced to Steamwhistle.....but once I discovered Boneshaker at Amsterdam Brewing, then a sweet number from Wellington Brewery called "Island Hopper" was IPA or bust for me.

What led you to get into homebrewing?
I have been fascinated with the brewing process as well as the creativity that goes into making beer for a long time.  I was really intimidated at first but at the encouragement of friends, I finally gave it a shot.  I have absolutely no regrets.  Brew day is a ton of fun but you certainly need to be on your toes.  I think the recipe design/creativity is the real driver for me.  And if the beer turns out, that's a bonus!!  ;)

Do you brew strictly from a recipe or do you get creative and try your own ideas?
I have brewed three times now and only used someone else's recipe once.  I look at recipes as great guides but also try to blend different recipe ideas together in addition to just "trying stuff" to see what happens.  My real challenge is learning what hops work best together and in what quantities.  Hops alone allows for some really cool experimentation depending on how and when you introduce them to your wort (during the boil, hop stand, addition timing, dry hopping etc.)

What's your favourite style of beer to brew?

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is far and away, IPA.  The fermentation requirements (temperature) make it a fairly easy beer to brew and ferment.  And IPA always tastes great!!!

What kind of homebrew setup are you using and how much beer does it make?
I was "gifted" with a really great set-up from an awesome home-brewing friend.  I typically brew 5 gallon batches using a 10 Gallon kettle and 5 gallon Hot Liquor tank/kettle and my heat source is the classic propane burner.  I mash in a Coleman cooler/mashtun and batch sparge the grains with a mixing bowl.  Chilling is old-school via a copper immersion chiller to cool the wort to yeast pitch temperature.  With respect to yeast, I have had great luck with the Escarpment Labs products including their "Foggy London" and "Vermont Ale" strains.  I am a fan to say the least.

Favourite type of hop to work with?
I have never had an IPA brewed with Citra that I didn't like.  That being said, the Centennial/Cascade combo is a classic IPA pairing and always provides for a great beer.  Honourable mentions definitely go to Idaho 7 and Mosaic.

Do you ever repeat brews or are you always trying new recipes?
I try to mix things up on the experimental side as much as I can.....I really enjoy the creative part so making a new recipe is always appealing and exciting.

What's next for you and home brewing?
Definitely more IPA - did I mention I am a fan of IPA?  ;)  Given that the cooler weather has set in, I am also considering taking my first shot at a stout/porter.  Again, a relatively straight forward brew with lots of opportunity for creativity.

If you want to be featured in our Homebrew Series please send us a direct message on social media or email us! Everyone is welcome at any skill level. We are very excited to connect with more local homebrewers and showcase their beer. Cheers!