One of the coolest things I’ve learned from being a beer blogger is that there are a LOT of interesting and talented people out there who are just thrilled to share their knowledge with anyone interested. Even here at The Brew Club, I’m so grateful to have people like Bob the Brit and Lee Salawitch (neither of whom I’ve met personally) freely share their experience and perspectives on all things beer.
Looking out a bit, you’ll find a host of other great beer blogs to read, (check our Friends page) and you’ll also notice some personalities emerge as authorities in the field.
One of those personalities is Billy Broas who runs billybrew.com, as well as The Homebrew Academy. The Homebrew Academy is an online learning program where you can learn homebrewing with the support of Billy himself and the community.
Billy opened his online Homebrew Academy last year. Having known of Billy through beer blogging and wanting to learn more about homebrewing, I thought it would be a smart move to sign up – and I did. Since I’ve joined, Billy has grown his community of homebrewers, added even more great content, and has worked out the technical kinks. Let’s face it, pulling off a project like this isn’t easy, but he’s done it, and there are a lot of happy new homebrewers out there to prove it!
For me, I’ll admit to being a bad Academy student. A new addition to the family this year has severely reduced my free time, and so I haven’t yet made my first batch. That doesn’t really bother me because The Homebrew Academy is a lifetime membership. Pay a reasonable $47 tuition once, and you’re in for good. So, when time permits, I’m back to class!
So check out the Q & A with Billy and be sure to check back tomorrow. We’ll be giving away one free membership to The Homebrew Academy! (Feel free to ask any questions of Billy in the comments below!)
In a nutshell, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m originally from New Jersey but moved to Williamsburg, Virginia when I was 10. My teenage years were spent playing baseball, going to Busch Gardens, and taking trips to the beach. I then attended James Madison University (Go Dukes) where I drank tons of crappy beer until my junior year when I discovered craft beer. This was what you call the “light bulb” moment.
How long have you been homebrewing?
I started homebrewing in 2006 when I was a junior in college. I started out with malt extract, but I caught the brewing bug and quickly moved on to all-grain and built a 3-tier system..
How did you begin to homebrew, and what were some of the problems you faced? Care to share any homebrew bloopers or disaster stories?
Two things I have always loved are beer and science, so homebrewing was a natural fit. The first batches were nothing to brag about. I followed the kit instructions but really had no idea what I was doing. There were many nights where I would wake up to the sound of bottles exploding, thinking a robber was trying to break in. The ones that didn’t explode were drinkable, but that was about it.
Conversely, did you have a homebrewing “ah ha” moment?
Yes. I brewed a batch with an experienced all-grain brewer and he explained not just what he was doing, but why he was doing it. Once I understood the brewing process the flavor of my homebrew really improved. It was a Columbus Hop IPA that I consider my first really good beer.
You run billybrew.com and thehomebrewacademy.com. What’s the deal there?
BillyBrew is my beer blog that covers a wide range of craft beer topics: food pairing tips, beer trends, rants, and style crash courses . It’s a non-snobby approach to craft beer because let’s face it, there is a lot of beer snobbery out there. I have a ton of fun writing it and my readers are awesome.
The Homebrew Academy is an online training program that teaches people how to brew. I started it in late 2010 and we’ve graduated dozens of new homebrewers.
Why did you start the Homebrew Academy?
To help people get into homebrewing. Plenty of people buy kits but have no idea how to use them.
I meet a ton of people who want to homebrew and ask me where to learn. The default answer was always “read a book”, which if you’re a visual learner like me, is not what you want to hear. The BillyBrew readers told me they really enjoyed my video brewing tips, so I decided to make a comprehensive video-based program for new brewers.
What are your goals for The Homebrew Academy?
My goal is to make it a leading resource for homebrew education. Certain people would rather learn from a book or a friend, and that’s fine. The more people that homebrew the better, but I really think our program can help people that would rather have a visual guide that they can refer to at any time, from anywhere.
Biggest surprise with the Academy?
I’m always amazed by how different every homebrewer is. They all start out at square one, but their paths quickly diverge. Some take it nice and slow brewing very safe styles, while some build an all-grain system after 1 or 2 batches and throw every fruit and spice they can get their hands on into their beer. It’s fun to watch.
What’s the toughest part of running an online learning environment? (Biggest challenge)
Online learning environments, virtual classrooms, e-learning – whatever you want to call it, they are relatively new concepts so the technology portion is tough, especially for a one-man operation. Getting the site off the ground was rough, but things are running very smoothly now.
Besides me, who are the people in the homebrew world that you look up to? 😉
Why should people consider signing up for your program to learn homebrewing, instead of getting books or old fashioned trial and error? What’s different about it?
Who wants to spend 4 or 5 disappointing batches making mistakes while they “figure it out”?
I did that and it stinks. People are short on time these days and want to brew great beer on the very first try, which is what we provide. Sure you’ll get better with experience, but if you just follow our program then your first batch of homebrew will impress people. In fact we guarantee it.
What kind of people are signing up for your program? Is it suitable for anyone interested in homebrewing, or just noobs?
It’s perfect for noobs but also good for malt extract brewers that want to improve their beer. After you brew your first beer, we have an advanced section for taking things to the next level.
With a background in the renewable energy field, I’m an relentless researcher and always seek out the best information on brewing. I make sense of all of the complex information and present it to Academy members in an easy-to-understand fashion, with the research to support it. Basically, my nerdiness translates into better beer for my members.
The program does not currently cover all-grain brewing, but that will be added in the future.
Ever brew in the nude? How did that go?
I mainly brew outside and I like my neighbors, so I spare them the nude brew days. Plus there’s an open flame…
Thanks Billy for your time, and keep up the great work!
In the spirit of full disclosure, as I mentioned, I am a fully paid member of The Homebrew Academy as well as an affiliate. If you join The Homebrew Academy through a link like this, I make a few bucks which help keep this site running, and hopefully pay for a few beers.
I wouldn’t waste my time or yours recommending a crappy product, or one that I hadn’t checked out myself. In that light, I think The Homebrew Academy is a great deal and a great opportunity to learn, so please check it out! If bizarrely you end up not liking it, there’s a 90-day, 100% satisfaction guarantee with a full refund. You really can’t lose, so go check it out right now.