TBP Feature Series: Milk The Funk (Facebook group)

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After maintaining a beer blogs directory on my blog for the past few years I’ve decided to begin a series of blog posts that features beer blogs, Facebook groups, homebrewing clubs etc. that offer brewers (home and professional) and craft beer drinkers a platform to learn a lot about beer. Being that I’ve recently started to take my first steps into the brewing and fermenting of funky and sour beers I’ve chosen the Milk The Funk Facebook group as the first notable homebrewing resource of this new series.

As a new member of this popular group, I didn’t have much of a grasp of the its history and dynamic. Therefore, I chose to contact two of its administrators via e-mail and have them answer a list of questions about both the group and themselves. After reading their answers I decided to post them in interview format in order to keep things simple yet informative.

The Brewed Palate: When did you start the Milk The Funk Facebook group and what inspired you to do so?

Ryan Steagall: The Milk the Funk Facebook group was created on March 6, 2013. Before creating it, one of the first things I did was make sure Brandon Jones with Embrace The Funk didn’t think I was stepping on toes since I wasn’t privy to what he may or may not have planned for ETF and the names shared “the funk” similarity.  To start, I was highly interested in wild, funky, and sour fermentation but there weren’t enough people locally to share knowledge with openly.  I knew that there were brewers from Atlanta to Louisville that were interested and wanted a way to better connect with them.  So, just as quickly as the group was created I added people and brewing friends to the group like: Devin Bell, Matt Warise, and Brandon Jones.  It took off from there.

1243695_794892340521111_6174332696832656414_oTBP: How has the group evolved over time and what do you think has made it so successful (e.g. as a source of great information and conversation about funky and sour beers)? 

RS: First off, we’ve grown faster than I thought, possibly faster than I would have liked, and continuing to snowball.  I’m glad to say that sticking to the basics of what we’re about is what keeps us on track and moving forward. While we don’t have a mission statement, our tagline on our wiki kind of says it all: “Milk the Funk started off as a simple idea to get home brewers interested in more advanced and “funky” topics talking. Since its inception, Milk the Funk has become a communal authority on alternative yeast and bacteria fermentation with an emphasis in alternative brewing techniques.”  That is what we’re about and the drive of knowledge is what is pushing us to create other avenues of communication such as our forum and most recently our wiki. I think this will become a great tool far into the future if it develops with our basics in mind.

Devin Bell: The group started very small, mostly people in Tennessee and southern Kentucky. The small number of people that started with the group are very passionate about sour and funky beers. This is something I think has driven our success. I think our members have added new people that share their obsession and that keeps the posts quality high. That’s another thing driving our success. We strive to keep the posts at a pretty high level. There are thousands of resources for basic and beginning brewing, but virtually none for sour and funky beers. I didn’t want this to become a group where half the posts consist of, “Is this beer infected?” like so many other groups.

TBP: Who comprises the membership of the group? (talk a bit about the fact that both pro and home brewers are part of the group) AND how has the group’s dynamic developed over time?

RS: This group has grown into something far more than I thought it would have.  It started off being just homebrewers, but social networking allowed me to add and invite people along the way that I knew would be an asset to the group.  Before we knew it, we had several microbiologists and professional brewers involved in open discussions.  For an experimental homebrewer such as myself, there is nothing more exciting than to have a conversation with professional craft brewers who are excited and interested in the same brewing subjects you are.  This is a rare time where funky and sour beers are gaining popularity and you are learning in parallel with the Pros.

DB: We are pretty diverse as a group. We have people who are brewing their first sour, advanced home brewers, pro brewers, microbiologists, and people who work for yeast companies. It’s grown over time. Some of our members have transferred from being home brewers to brewing funky beers on a pro level. I think the quality content is useful for home brewers and pro brewers alike.


10253846_714049165285226_8584531332015227909_nTBP: Now that funky and sour beers have become popular in both the homebrewing and craft beer scenes/communities. What role do you feel groups like Milk The Funk play in the growth of this genre of beers?

DB: We are just trying to push everyone to make the best beer they can. Our group is about not following the norm and making your own way. I want people to try their own techniques and see what happens.

RS: We definitively enlighten people and bring new interest to Sour and Funky beers. Hopefully this attention will result in more craft breweries opening experimental divisions much like Yazoo has done with Embrace The Funk.  The world needs more of this kind of thing, from cultural to the arts…. the funk is where it’s at.

About The Group Administrators:

1462855_10205211320786381_7534326358391228349_nRyan Steagall:

How long have you been homebrewing? How did you get into / start brewing funky and sour beers?

I’ve been homebrewing for about 8 years now, but only got more serious into it when I found and joined the local homebrew club – Mid-State Brew Crew

What are your general methods for brewing, fermenting, and aging your funky and sour beers?

Adjuncts are a fun thing to play with and alternate grains.  I’ve discovered the local feed mill for chicken scratch, rolled oats, and raw wheat are good for that.  Sometimes all you need is a hint of something strange to make you go forward with an experiment that you may have otherwise not done.   However, for the most part I really do try and keep it simple as far as my funky and sour brewing goes.  I’ve found keeping it simple with grain bills and hop scheduled really help.  I’ve got to where I really like mashing hops and adjuncts with my grain.  I don’t have to worry as much about hop profiles in the boil and it keeps my boil cleaner with little to no trub.  In turn, its makes for a much easier brew session.

Have you won awards for your beers? If so, list them.

Until recently, I’ve never won an brewing award.  My brew-bud, Matt Warise and I concentrated this whole year on the Music City Brew Off 2014.  We each entered beers we were most responsible for under our names and listed the other as Co-Brewer.  This year I won 3 firsts, a second, and a 3rd Best of Show:  1st American Brown Ale, 1st Straight Unblended Lambic, 1st Barleywine, and 2nd Fruit Lambic (Peach).  The 3rd BOS was represented by my Barleywine. It was an amazing feeling to win that many.  I can now at least say and know that “it didn’t suck” which is a quote that Mike Semich used to say.

What do you currently have fermenting / aging?

Currently fermenting I a spontaneously fermenting coolship at 2 months, a wood barrel of golden sour at 1+ years, a wood barrel of Belgian base sour, and a brett blend pineapple IPA.  In bottles I have blackberry, peach, and mango/pineapple sours all freshly bottled with the golden sour as the base.

What are your favorite beer styles to brew and drink?

I really don’t have a favorite beer style because I like to experiment with so many, but if I had to choose I would say nothing beats a well hopped IPA fermented with mixed sacc. (sacchromyces) and brett (brettanomyces) coupled with interesting adjuncts or fruits like pineapple.  As far as brewing and even though I’m only on my second, my favorite to brew has got to be for a coolship.  There is nothing glorious about brewing a beer.  The good stuff happens before in the planning stages and fermentation.  Coolships are so easy and fast, there is no way it can’t be my favorite.

What advice would you give to a homebrewer looking to start brewing funky and sour beers? Also, What are some good methods for going from more simple brewing/fermenting techniques to more difficult/complex ones?

My advice interested in alternate yeast and bacteria fermentation is not to be scared of it.  Don’t be scared that its going to wreck your brewery.  These “bugs” are everywhere.  They are all over your grain.  When you crush your grains, imagine all that dust and where its going.  Its covered in lactobacillus among other things. As long as you practice sanitation where you should, you’ll be good.  Get a good book or two like American Sour Beers – By Michael Tonsmeire. Lastly, check us out at Milk the Funk.

 

10151380_712241818799294_2525261253316565827_nDevin Bell:

How long have you been homebrewing? How did you get into / start brewing funky and sour beers?

I started home brewing in 2008ish, but I’ve watched my uncles and family members do it since I was a little kid. I’ve always loved saisons and funky beers. I started drinking craft beer at a very young age, I had my first Sam Adams at 16 and started drinking Stone pretty regularly around 18 or 19. Then I went straight into funky beers. When I hit 21 I was scraping together all my money to buy Cantillon. Which for a broke college kid is pretty tough. So when I got into home brewing that’s what I went straight for. My first batch ever was an All Grain Saison kit with Wyeast 3711 from Northern Brewer. After that I brewed a Three Floyds Gumball Head clone from Homebrewtalk and that next batch I brewed a Brett Saison. That’s when I got hooked. I think in the last 3 years I’ve brewed one beer that was 100% sacch. (sacchromyces) and that was for someone else.

What are your general methods for brewing, fermenting, and aging your funky and sour beers?

I’ve been doing a lot of quick sours lately. You start your ferment with 100% lacto (lactobacillus) and keep it hot. Let it get about a 4-7 day head start then pitch a huge starter of brettanomyces to finish the fermentation.

Have you won awards for your beers? If so, list them.

I’ve never entered a contest. I have too many palates around me that I trust. BJCP judges don’t have the best track record for understanding the kind of beers we make.

What do you currently have fermenting / aging?

I just kegged and bottled a Golden Sour on plums yesterday. Other than that I have 5 gallons of a coolship project and 6.5 gallons of a Lambic style base on ECY20 (East Coast Yeast 20 / BugCounty). I’ll probably brew 5 gallons of Berliner and 5 gallons of Gose in the next few days.

What are your favorite beer styles to brew and drink?

Anything low alcohol and easy to drink. Berliners (Berliner Weisse) and Saisons are my favorites to brew and drink.

What advice would you give to a homebrewer looking to start brewing funky and sour beers? Also, What are some good methods for going from more simple brewing/fermenting techniques to more difficult/complex ones?

Just go for it! Hopefully my fastest simplest sour ever article will be done soon. In that, I’m trying to have a good sour beer done in 2-3 weeks. Only real advice I can give is to just read and listen to everything you can get your hands on. That’s how I learned.

Thank you for check out my first feature post of this new TBP series. If you know of any blogs, Facebook groups, etc. that you feel should be included in this series please leave a comment on this post. Cheers!

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About The Brewed Palate - Barry

NJ (formerly NYC) based home brewer and craft beer enthusiast sharing his brewing and imbibing adventures on thebrewedpalate.com. "Spreading the messages of craft beer one palate at a time."
This entry was posted in Craft Beer Advocacy, Homebrewing, TBP Feature Series and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to TBP Feature Series: Milk The Funk (Facebook group)

  1. Dan ABA says:

    Awesome stuff, Barry!

  2. Ed Coffey says:

    Great article, good advice from two great brewers.

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