Wil Wheaton has led quite a life. He trekked through the swamp with his friends in “Stand By Me.” He trekked through the stars as the helmsman of the Enterprise on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," and his most recent turn has been as the nemesis of Dr. Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory.”
Between acting jobs, Wheaton has also carved out a nice home on the internet as a pop culture maven and authority figure on all things geek. Despite his devoted fans, Wheaton insists that he’s “just a guy.” What do guys do? Guys drink beer. Guys drink good beer, and sometimes guys brew their own beer.
On April 3, Wheaton will team up with Drew Curtis – founder of Fark.com – to brew a collaboration beer with Stone Brewing. Before the magic happens, fans are invited to attend a meet-and-greet at the brewery at 5:30 p.m. on April 2.
Wheaton took a few minutes to wax alcoholically about home brewing, craft beer, and yes "Star Trek." One thing that’s very clear is that he isn’t just a celebrity lending his name to a project. He really knows his stuff, and has a genuine passion for great beer.
What got you into home brewing?
It was my son’s idea. He came home after graduating college, and he was spending the summer at home with my wife and me. He said “you know, I would love it if we had a father/son activity to do during the summer.” I said “I would love that, what would you want to do,” and he said “what about brewing beer?”
I had attempted to brew beer with a hopped extract kit that I bought from Home Shopping Network when I was in college, and it got infected and just didn’t work well at all. I thought it was really difficult, and didn’t know if it was something we could really do together, but I said “you know, I’ll give it another go.”
So we went to Eagle Rock Home Brewing Supply, which is close to where we live, and I talked to Kevin (one of the owners). I said “I tried this about 20 years ago, and it just didn’t work very well…can you help me?” He walked us through the whole process, the chemistry and food science, and really demystified the entire process. We bought some things to make an American pale ale. We brewed it together, and three weeks later we had beer!
What was the best beer you’ve ever brewed?
I’ve made a few that came out really great. I made a Tripel using a kit that I bought from Northern Brewer called the Carmelite Triple-grain Tripel, and I’m astounded by how well it turned out. It’s really delicious. I also did a brown ale almost a year ago. When I brew a beer I give it to my neighbors, and my neighbors unanimously decided that was the best one.
The one that I’m probably the most proud of kind of ended up as an accident. I made a honey sage saison, and it was sort of inspired by the Triple White Sage that Craftsman Brewery does. It had this wonderful sage aroma, and was quite delicious.
When I bottled it, I bottled it with honey instead of corn sugar. This woke the yeast up, and the saison yeast just went bananas. Instead of finishing at 7.5% (abv), it finished at 9.8%, and then it had to bottle condition for close to 10 months before it was even drinkable. It’s so delicious. A lot of the intense sage aroma is gone, and it almost drinks like a mead instead of a saison.
As every homebrewer does, you’ve had some duds, right?
When I was first starting out, I tried to make a porter. It was just a one-gallon batch, and I was cooling it in an ice bath in my sink. I had the kettle sitting in the sink with water and ice, and then physics happened. The density of the water changed and the pot tipped over. I lost most of the wort, and I tried to salvage it, but I think I got two bottles out of it and neither was any good.
I also did the Golden Road Pro-Am competition. They gave a bunch of brewers a mystery hop, and all we knew about it was that it was 7.8% alpha acid. I designed a recipe with a little bit of input from John Palmer for a dry-hopped American pale ale. Everything went perfectly, and I took a gallon out for dry hopping, and put the other four gallons in a carboy to let it clear. I suspect the four gallons in the carboy got a bit of a brett infection, which was disappointing. Luckily I had the gallon I had reserved for dry-hopping, so I ended up submitting the dry-hopped version for the competition. It’s sort of like Drake’s 1500 with a slightly more malt-forward profile.
What is your go-to beer?
My favorite beer to drink that I didn’t brew is Stone IPA.
You’re a big Stone fan, what did you think of the Dayman Coffee IPA?
I liked it a lot. I wasn’t sure what to expect from it, but I loved the coffee aroma. I was interested in seeing how they were going to balance the hop profile of an imperial IPA with a coffee flavor profile. I was really surprised how well they balanced it. I know Greg Koch and Mitch Steele well enough to know that they won’t put something out there that isn’t great. I thought to myself “maybe this is going to be too weird,” but I like the way that it turned out.
You and Drew Curtis are teaming up with Stone on April 2nd, how did this whole thing come together?
I’ve known Drew for about 12 years. I started my first website shortly after he started Fark.com, and we just had similar interests. We viewed the internet and business the same way, and we became friends very quickly.
I was first exposed to Stone Brewing on the train from San Diego back to Los Angeles returning from Comic-Con in 1999 or 2000. I had Arrogant Bastard on the train, and I fell in love with it as soon as I put it in a glass. The first smell I had of it, I knew it was something really special and great. I really loved the idea that Greg was just unapologetic, saying “if you don’t like this, it’s not my problem.”
I was doing a thing where I was running little advertisements on my website, and I called the brewery and asked for permission to use the Arrogant Bastard graphic to run some ads. Greg actually picked up the phone and said “we don’t really do advertising, but if you want to do that, go ahead.” We talked for a little bit; he ended up reading my blog and emailing me, and inviting me down to the bistro which had just opened. My wife put together this thing for my birthday where we went down to the bistro, and it was a surprise. Greg took us on a tour, we had lunch and beers together, and it began a friendship that has lasted longer than a decade.
About a year ago, Greg asked me if I was interested in doing a collaboration brew. Of course I did, who says no to that? It was just a matter of figuring out who to do it with. I went through my list of friends, and when I said Drew, Greg and I both said “oh yeah, of course, Drew!” Drew, Greg and I have the same point of view on almost everything as it relates to marketing, business and philosophy. We agree on so many things that it seemed like it would fun for us to do a thing together. I was really excited about it, and I’m really looking forward to what we’re going to make.
What can we expect out of the collaboration, do you guys have any plans?
We haven’t released any information about what we’re brewing, but we spent a fair amount of time working on it. We got a ton of input from Mitch, and it’s going to be great. I’m really excited to do it.
Which geeks are more intense: “Star Trek” or beer?
I think that being a geek isn’t about the thing that you’re a geek for. It’s about how you love that thing. There are “Star Trek” geeks who really enjoy the show, and that’s the end of it. There are beer geeks that really enjoy having a beer, and that’s the end of it for them. Then there are “Star Trek” fans who really want to know how the starship works, and what the diplomacy is between all of these alien species. There are beer geeks who want to know what kind of yeast you used, your hop schedule, and how do I make it myself. That level of enthusiasm is the same regardless of what subject people are geeky about.
Finally, any words of wisdom for the craft beer community?
Let’s just keep making great beers. Let’s do everything we can to build up a barricade to stop the "crafty beer" people from moving in and diluting this wonderful world that’s been created.
Wil Wheaton and Drew Curtis from Fark.com will be at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens for a meet-and-greet on April 2 at 5:30 p.m. No tickets necessary.
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