Brewer Profile: Mike Gyarmathy
Road Trips for Beer made the acquaintance of Mike Gyarmathy at the Cajun Café on the Bayou beer festivals in Pinellas Park, Florida. Mike loves to share his home brews at the fests, and the line at the “Mike’s Heavenly Homebrews” booth remains steady throughout the festival day. He gracefully agreed to an email interview for our occasional “Featured Brewer” series about his brewing and his philosophy on why he does it.
“Home brewing beer is a relaxing hobby, and a great way to balance out the everyday stress we have to deal with these days,” Mike said. “I can’t think of a hobby that reaps a better reward than your favorite home brewed ale or lager to share with family and friends”.
Name: Mike Gyarmathy of Mike’s Heavenly Homebrews.
Where you live: St. Petersburg, Florida.
Family: Wife (of 34 years) Susie, and 2 daughters
Day job: Manufacturing engineer at a local aerospace manufacturing company
How long have you been brewing?
I started by making wine 21 years ago, and within a few months I brewed my first batch of beer in 1990. I brewed extract brews for many years before taking the plunge into all-grain brewing and have been all-grain brewing for about 15 years now.
Have you ever worked in a brewery?
No, but I thought about volunteering somewhere (when I was out of work), but it never happened and then I got a job offer and went back to work full time.
What is your brewing philosophy?
Make good beer with good quality ingredients, don’t skimp on the ingredients, don’t rush it, use good equipment sanitation practices, and then relax with a homebrew.
What kind of brewing setup do you have?
I use a 14-gallon stainless steel brew kettle, propane burner, 5- and 10-gallon insulated mash tuns, 50’ ½” copper immersion heat exchanger (chiller) and I ferment in a temperature-controlled kegerator (which is a must for lagers).
I feel that after sanitation, temperature control is probably one of the most important factors in making quality brew. I keg almost all of my brews now, and bottle only about a gallon or so for potential competitions. It’s a rather simple brew system, but it works quite well.
How much of your brews are “from scratch”?
I brew mostly “all-grain” brews, and lately I have been brewing mainly organic brews using organic grains (malt) and organic hops, Wyeast (or White Labs) liquid yeasts.
I have used other things like organic cocoa, vanilla beans, raspberries, and oak barrel and bourbon flavoring additives. I am about to try some new brews using ancient herbs in place of some of the hops, since I have been doing some research on ancient beer recipes, and I hope to even create brews that are not only tasty, but beneficial for our health.
What is your biggest brewing triumph?
I recently won a first place in the “2010 National Organic Brewing Challenge” for Category 12: Porter, with my Organic Chocolate Porter and I feel very honored by this award. I really liked this brew a lot, and so did many of my friends. I did not expect that it would take first place, but I’m glad it did.
Your biggest brewing failure?
I once brewed a “Girl Scout Cookie” beer that I made with chocolate and mint (like the cookie) – I almost dumped the batch after tasting it, but decided to bottle some of it just to see if it would become drinkable after some aging. It improved somewhat, but I never liked it, but after taking a few bottles of it to a few parties, it seemed that most (but not all) of the women at the parties went crazy over it, and begged me to make more – I never did though.
What are you drinking right now?
I just had a Fullers 1845, but this was the first one in a very long time. It was maltier than I remember, but a great brew anyway.
Besides your own brews, what are your favorite beers?
It is hard for me to pick “a” favorite, but Bells Beer (out of Kalamazoo, Michigan) is probably one of my favorite breweries and since I really like stouts a lot, the Double Cream Stout and Expedition Stout are my favorites.
I hate to be pinned down to just one brewery because I really like so many different styles, but German, Belgium, and UK brews need to be included, as well as many micros like Cigar City, Rogue, and the organics (like Bison, and a few others) are really good.
What are your goals for your brewing?
Home brewing beer is a fun thing for me, I don’t know if it would be as much fun to be a commercial brewer, but I would consider brewing at a small establishment like a brewpub, if I am not limited to making only a few styles (like some brewpubs want), and was able to be creative, then this maybe something that I would like to do (you never know …).
What is the most important piece of advice you can offer someone who is thinking about becoming a brewer?
I’m not a commercial brewer, but my opinion is that if you are not already a home brewer, become one and practice your techniques and become a great home-brewer before you jump into the commercial job.
What has been the most useful resource for your brewing?
My early years of home brewing were definitely influenced by Charlie Papazian’s books which helped me approach brewing as a fun thing with a reward at the end (“Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew”), rather than a rigid engineering project (I am an engineer by trade). I have collected many brewing books over the years and some of them are much more advanced, (which is great information), but Charlie made it about being fun also.
Where can people taste your beer?
I have served my beers at the Cajun Café on the Bayou (Pinellas Park, Florida) Beer Festival every beer fest for the last several years. There is a spring festival in (April) and a fall festival in November. It has been a blessing to be able to share my beers there and I love getting feedback on them.
I have tried to have four or five different styles (5 gallon kegs) to sample at each festival along with a homebrewed root beer as well. The brews that I have served so far are; Organic Irish Red Ale, Pumpkin Ale, Raspberry Wheat beer, Amber Ale, Bourbon Barrel Ale, Rye Roggenbier, English Bitter, Black Lager, Porter and Chocolate Porter, Cream Stout, Kolsch, Oyster Stout, Dortmunder Export Style Bier, IPA, and home brewed root beer.
These beers have done very well, but the Bourbon Barrel Ale has been the biggest hit especially, and my Organic Chocolate Porter also went over very well.
(Editors note: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect month for the next Cajun Cafe Beer Festival).
We appreciate Mike taking the time to tell us of his brewing experiences. He’ll again be sharing his creations at the next Cajun Cafe on the Bayou Craft Beer Festival on April 16, 2011. If you are a craft or home brewer who would like to be featured on Road Trips for Beer – or know of one who might be interested – please drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org.