19 years drinking his own beers: UA professor talks homebrewing

To students, English Language Institute professor David Taylor is known as "The King." In his office, Elvis is everywhere.

“In Mississippi, where I come from, we have two kings," he said. "Elvis and BB King, the king of blues.”

But in addition to his love for rock and roll, he has another passion: brewing beer. He's been doing it since 1997. I asked the teacher about his process, his favorite brews, and his personal history.

How did you get started?

I had lived out of the country from 1994 to 1997. After being in South America I came back, and I had a new neighbor who had moved in while I was gone. He brewed his beer and I loved his beer. Then I said to him, 'This is something that I always have wanted to do, so teach me how to do it.' He gave a list of supplies and I went to New Orleans to pick up all the things I needed. I came home, and he came to my house to help me brew my first batch of beer. I needed just one class to learn it. Since then, I've been on my own, reading and tasting. For two years I shared my beers with him, and he shared his with me.

What was [the first beer you made]?

It was a pale ale. It worked out just fine.

What is the best beer you have ever had?

I've been tasting beers for a long time and I don't know. I think, everything depends on the mood and the situation. For example, after meals or to be relaxed on the couch I might drink Guinness. If I want something to drink with the meal, I like Sierra Nevada, or Good People brewed in Birmingham.

What are your favorites beers?

Darker pale ales or a brown ale porter. I like mid to darker color, a lot of malt, with some hops. My favorite IPA (India Pale Ale) is the Monkeynaut from Huntsville made by Straight to Ale. I don't like lagers; for me, they are like water with bubbles. When I brew this kind, I like to put in different flavors. A good dark beer is Turbodog.

What is the best you have created?

A maple pale ale. It is like a west coast pale ale, California ale, but I use maple syrup. It is nice, malty, and it has good hop balance. It is a good party beer and also good for a meal.

What do you need to start brewing?

First, you have to know what you like, what flavors you like. The final flavor depends on so many things: how many grains it has, how malty it is, the kind of hop you use and the yeast; remember, there are lager yeast, ale yeast, yeast for seasons, like the Belgian beers. Then you just have to play with it and recognize what you like.

How often do you create beers?

I only do beers during the cool part of the year. I stopped late in the spring, April usually, and I restart around October or November. I don't have a refrigerator just for making beer. In my refrigerator I just have some beers and some nice and cold mugs. I keep it in my basement, under the cement floor, in the ground where the temperatures stay constant.

I make a 5-gallon batch which means two cases of beer. You start with good water. I filter it to eliminate the chlorine. I brew using grains and malt, then I start to play with flavors and yeast. It goes from two weeks to a month depending on how heavy alcohol you want it to be. You know what, commercial beer pasteurized it, it means they kill everything, and when it goes in the can or the bottle they put gas in with it to create a sparkle. When it is time to go into the bottle, is the only time I taste it just to be sure everything is ok.

How much does it cost to create a batch of beer?

Depends on the style you like but it fluctuates from $25 to $45. If you want a Russian imperial style it will cost you around $50, but if you want a lager that’s $25 for two cases. This is cheaper; but if you like Bud Light, water with bubbles, I say why? You can drink what you like and in the way you like.

When I make beer I make a variety of beers. For example, one pale ale patch, then a porter or a stout. After that I can make a Spanish lager, like Estrella de Galicia, then something red or light. Because when people come to my house I like to offer them a beer, and I ask them: “What do you like?” But, when they answer “Do you have a Bud Light,” I always say, “Sorry. I don't have anything for you.”

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