March 16, 2017 at 8:55am
In a region filled with craft beers and microbreweries, some people still enjoy the process and science of concocting their own home brews.
Col. John Kent, deputy commanding officer of Madigan Army Medical Center, is one soldier who enjoys making his own adult beverages.
He said he tries to brew at least once a month when he finds time away from his busy work schedule.
"I started brewing because I was interested in beer and different kinds of beers," said Kent. "Back when I was a lieutenant or captain I had a neighbor who made beer and I thought it was cool. He really got me started."
Kent said the process of brewing is like a science project requiring precise measurements and organization. Cleaning and sanitation along with consistent temperature during fermentation he said, are keys to a successful brew.
A Tuscon, Arizona, native, Kent began getting seriously involved in home brewing in 2008 after returning from his assignment in Germany - a place he calls "the land of beer".
Later, while stationed at Fort Polk, Louisiana, he began researching, reading and brewing consistently.
"Pretty much since then, unless work gets crazy, about once a month I'll brew something," Kent said.
Home brewing is a good way to have fresh, interesting beer without having to settle for mass market brands, said Kent.
While he doesn't compete much, Kent was one of several servicemembers who participated in the latest Joint Base Lewis-McChord Brewfest competition in February to test his beers against other home brewers in the area. He entered four beers into the competition of which his Citrus Grove IPA placed second and another placed in the commander's cup event.
His other two beers were disqualified after judges opened the bottles and detected a sour odor, said Kent.
"I allowed them to get contaminated and I don't know how; I think it was the (bottle) caps," said Kent shaking his head. "Based on the judges' comments, it was evident that they were bad."
Kent said he is still puzzled about the two-beers that didn't place in the JBLM Brewfest. He received no complaints from attendees, who sampled his beers. His conclusion was that the two bottles that were judged had to have been the only bad ones of the bunch.
The JBLM Brewfest was the second time Kent had been in a brewer's competition. He's done fairly well in both competitions, he said, but prefers making beer for himself, friends and family.
"I don't usually compete," said Kent. "It's kind of like golf, when you keep score the only thing you start thinking about are those bad shots. Then the whole day becomes about the bad shots, instead of the good shots. With brewing, the beer is good or it's bad. But when you're competing, it becomes ‘what did I do wrong?'"
Kent said, since he began brewing he has always made a memorable beer at each of his duty stations.
Over the years, he said, the beer that has become the most sentimental was a creation inspired by a friend, who was the commander of the 10th Combat Support Hospital, in Fort Carson, Colorado. His friend's unit was prepared to deploy overseas, and Kent wanted to do something special for them.
"I told him I would brew a beer for them while they were gone," said Kent. "So I brewed an imperial porter. It's called Mountain Medic Imperial Porter, because they were the ‘Mountain Medics'. I brew that beer every year or so. It's a higher alcohol and takes a little bit more time to finish (brewing)."
Kent's recipes tend to be on the simple side, using two or three kinds of hops and as many as four kinds of grains.
"I found that simple is often times better, because, what makes your beer better is the sanitation, the fermentation, the attention to the details, not all the different junk you throw in," said Kent.
The recipe creation process is fun, he added. Trying to figure out the right combinations for a desired taste takes some creativity. While he doesn't rule out commercial brewing someday, it's a huge financial commitment and a competitive industry, said Kent. For now, he perfects the craft of home brewing and sharing his creations with friends and family.
"I make what I like, and I drink mostly what I make," said Kent.
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