Highwoods Brewing began as a son and father collaboration in early April 2017, when Jeremy Smith (son) suggested to David Smith (father) that it would be fun to brew beer. Because both of us enjoy good craft beers, little convincing was needed, and within a couple weeks we were brewing our first batch. Aside from drinking some beer and knowing what we like, neither of us really knew much about beer, much less about brewing. So, our beer and brewing education got rolling quickly, and hasn't stopped.
We started out with about fifteen pre-packaged brewing kits of various styles of ale. We noted carefully the kit ingredients, gaining some familiarity with the malts, hops, adjuncts, and yeast varieties and the resulting beers. We also began reading up on our subject avidly, discovering that there is much to learn. We continued brewing with malt extracts but, with growing knowledge and confidence, by August 2017 we were experimenting with our own recipes. As might be guessed, some beers turned out better than others, but we kept good notes along the way, recording every recipe, the ingredients and the procedures. We learned a little more every time we brewed, resolved that the next batch would be better than the last.
While there is nothing wrong with extract brewing (some fine beers are made that way), in December 2017 we shifted to all-grain brewing, and find it very satisfying. Most of our attention at this point was centered around the malts and hops in our recipes. We were trying out various yeast strains, too, depending on the beer we were making, but we had been fermenting all of our beers at the same temperature (room temperature 72F), and we noticed that our results varied depending on the yeast we used. That drew our attention to the yeast and the ideal fermentation temperatures for the various yeast strains, and that led to our next step toward brewing the best beer possible, given our minimal homebrew facilities.
That next step took place in July 2018 and consisted of buying a freezer with external temperature control, so that we can adjust fermentation temperature depending on the yeast we are pitching and what we are looking for from that yeast. With no ambiguity, that step has provided the single largest improvement in our beers to date. Yet another step was taken in August 2018, regarding brewing water. Of the four primary ingredients of any beer (malts, hops, yeast, and water), water was the last to receive our attention. After obtaining a profile of our tap water from Ward Labs, we are now adjusting our brewing water to achieve a good water profile and mash pH value for whatever beer we are making. While not as dramatic an improvement as controlling fermentation temperature, adjusting our brewing water also helps our beer quality.
You may be wondering why we do only one gallon batches at a time. The answer is simple: If we were to brew larger batches, we would brew fewer batches. We enjoy good beer of various styles, and it's great to savor a different beer each week, but neither of us drink heavily, and producing more gallons of beer per week would exceed our consumption rate. Moreover, we believe that frequent brewing adds more to our experience and knowledge over time than less frequent brewing would. So for now, we enjoy producing a good variety of beers, one gallon per week. Perhaps we'll see things differently down the road.
We have now brewed well over 100 beers of various styles, and we turn out a new batch every week, always experimenting, looking for that next great beer, and we are now seldom disappointed. Every beer we have brewed, from the very beginning, appears on this website with all the details noted. In fact, we created this site as a sort of journal or database for ourselves, not only for reference while planning recipes or brewing but to give us a way to recall recipes when we are out tasting a beer we enjoy at a brewery, pub, or restaurant, and try to figure out what went into its making by comparing it to similar beers we have made. It's also handy when we are out talking about beer with friends who share the same interest. All in all, it's a lot of fun.