Professor by day...brewmaster by night
First there was Samuel Adams, then Gerard Heineken and now Joshua Weikert. Who is Joshua Weikert, you ask? He is a 31-year-old professor in Villanova's political science department, a former interrogator/human intelligence agent in the U.S. military and currently a doctoral candidate at Temple University.
But how does that relate him to men like Adams and Heineken? Believe it or not, Weikert brews his own beer in his kitchen.
Three years ago at a Halloween party, Weikert's brother-in-law, Stan Belkowski, offered Weikert some of his homemade beer.
"[The beer] was good," Belkowski says, "I was just intrigued with the idea that you could actually do this at home." Besides, Weikert's favorite beer, Double Diamond, was no longer being exported from Great Britain.
"They stopped supplying me with it," he says, "I was curious if I could make something like it at home."
Just a few short months later, Weikert, along with Belkowski, and other friends, founded the Stony Creek Homebrewers Association of which Weikert is the president. He is also a member of the Beer Judge Certification Program. One of the most important things the BJCP does is administer the beer judge qualifying exam.
According to their Web site, "This is the test that distinguishes the true beer judge from everyone else." The first part of the exam is a written question and answer section, while the second part focuses on the tasting. Currently, there are 3,184 active BJCP judges. Weikert is one of only 490 judges to hold a national ranking or higher.
Though he only started brewing three years ago, Weikert's beers have placed dozens of times in numerous competitions. The BJCP recognizes various categories for brewing competitions and Weikert has already captured 20 of the 23 categories. His most impressive win came this past November at the SCH Amateur Brewing Championship in which Weikert's beer, "Scared Sour," won best of show. It was Weikert's first sour beer and needed to be encased for nearly a year before it could be imbibed. He defeated 250 other beer connoisseurs with his homemade brew.
"You have to get a little bit lucky to win a best of show," he says.
The penchant for beer brewing is a family trait, as Weikert's wife, Barbara, participates as well.
"It was probably almost a year ago that she brewed her first beer," says Weikert.
And, yes, she also wins. She defeated Weikert with her flavorful, Coconutty Irishman beer to take first prize in the fruit beer category at the SCH Amateur Brewing Championship.
"I had already won that one [category] before, luckily," Weikert says, smiling. "So I didn't take it too hard."
The Weikerts do not just show off their award-winning beer at brewing competitions – they also serve it to their guests. At his Christmas party this past year, Weikert served his homemade brew on draught in his living room.
"Not only did I serve mine, I couldn't actually give away the other stuff I had bought," says Weikert, "About 40 people killed about 10 gallons of beer I had brewed."
Weikert exercises his culinary skill in his own kitchen on an electric stove top.
"One of the things I love about brewing is that it's really not about drinking," he says. "It's a culinary skill. It's not hard to do. And you can get started for about 80 or 90 bucks. We have a saying: ‘Wort (unfermented beer) wants to be beer.' You can screw up a lot of things and still come out with something that's better than you can buy," says Weikert.
And making beer does not take years.
"Some of the quicker styles [of beer] like some of the darker ales can be cranked out in about a week because you can cover up more with those roasty grain flavors," he says. "Then force carbonate them in a keg, and you can be ready to drink in about seven days." In terms of boiling, the actual brewing process only takes about four or five hours.
Weikert does not deny the keen interest students have in his hobby.
"I do get questions about it, and I'm happy to talk about the process, always with the caveat that you must be 21 to brew legally in Pennsylvania," Weikert says.
Weikert's next competition is the War of the Worts on Feb. 20 at the Iron Hill Brewery in North Wales, Pa. War of the Worts, hosted by the Keystone Hops, is one of the biggest competitions in the area with roughly 500 entries.
Weikert looks to capture another new BJCP category to get a step closer to the magic number: 23.
"Hopefully I'll have [all the categories] cleared out this spring," Weikert says.
And as he quotes on the SCH's Web site, in the words of Ben Franklin: "There can't be good living where there isn't good drinking."
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