Brew Hui Meets: Jono Galuszka

There’s something Inception-esque about a beer writer writing about another beer writer.

But as luck would have it, Manawatu Standard journalist Jono Galuszka doesn’t consider himself a writer at all – which is a reflection of his ceaseless self-deprecation, but also of his view that he’s a journalist first, storyteller second (or perhaps it was ninth; between Drumming, Homebrewing and Looking-Annoyingly-Young-For-A-Man-Of-His-Accomplishments, he spins an impressive number of plates).

As a journalist, Jono’s charged with collecting actually important information and then disseminating it in succinct form – largely free of the pomp and puffery of some beer writers that spring to mind (my words, not his).  And that makes perfect sense; when something that you’ve written might be at the pointy-end of one of the most-viewed web sites in the country – namely stuff.co.nz, the repository for all things Fairfax – you need to be pret-ty confident that every word you’ve written is an accurate reflection of reality.  And that you haven’t wrapped the truth in too much bullshit.

Thank f**k this blog isn’t similarly burdened.

Of course, writing was only part of the reason that I wanted a hui with Jono; given his platform, he’s also one of the more vocal homebrewers knocking about Godzone.  His media-brewer collaborations with Yeastie Boy Stu McKinlay – an apt conflation, given that both parties appear interchangeably excellent at each other’s jobs – have a habit of finding themselves as semi-permanent fixtures on the Yeastie Boys calendar.  Indeed, twelve-hundred litres of their 2013 Beervana collaboration Screwtop made its way around the country last year, while Spoonbender – based on a beer that Stu and Jono collaborated on a few years back – is set to make an imminent return (if The Horse’s Mouth is to be believed, that is).

Over the course of our Skype chat – All Hail Technology – I discovered that Jono is the only homebrewer in existence who didn’t come from humble brewing beginnings. While the full history is well-covered by Phil and George in the relevant Beer Diary Podcast, here it is in a nutshell: Jono wanted to learn how to brew, so he cut out the middle-man and asked Liberty Brewing’s Jo Wood to point-out the most efficient path.  Jo’s advice (and I’m paraphrasing here): don’t piss around.  Pay the money, get some decent kit and get brewing as soon as possible.

The parallels to my own journey are scary. Scary in their absence, that is.

And Jono’s first-ever homebrewing experience?  One of the aforementioned media-brewer collaborations with the Professor of Peat himself, Stu McKinlay.  On Jono’s brand-new Chris Banks-made kit, no less.  To coin a Blackadder-ism, Jono’s one lucky, lucky, lucky bastard.

It’s really no surprise that such a blue-blooded brewing nursery has begotten a homebrewer of considerable skill and technical knowledge.  I found myself going off-notes and asking less about The Man and more about His Craft, since there were very few queries that Jono couldn’t answer with something that at least sounded scientifically plausible. Since my own day job requires a nose for pseudo-science bullshit, I’m well-placed to spot flying manure – but there was none to be found flowing from Jono’s mouth.

Beyond the science of brewing, our discussion moved to my own journey; namely, to my concern about the What Might Go Wrongs once the grain hits the mash tun.  Jono was all-too-happy to walk me through his own brewing process, with tips ranging from the usefulness of a family-sized tinfoil pie dish (add some holes with a kebab stick and you’ve got yourself a perfectly-good water dispersal device for fly sparging), through to the importance of boiling wort (particularly if it has Pilsner malt in it) for 90-minutes to reduce the chance of DMS creeping into the beer (whatever all that means).

But by far the most useful advice was delivered via metaphor – with Jono employing a reference that any child of the Nineties can easily understand: Captain Planet.

In Jono’s metaphor, beer’s primary ingredients are The Planeteers: malt is the Earth; hops are the Fire; yeast is the Wind; and water is, well, the Water. But the Heart, without which there is no Captain PlanetThat’s the brewer’s passion for the task at hand.  It’s giving a shit about what you’re brewing.  It’s keeping an eye on the details but being led by your gut.  The resulting beer – Captain Planet, in Jono’s metaphor – will tell the ultimate truth about how much Heart was really there during the brewing process.

Towards the end of our conversation, we meandered into a wee discussion about the simple joys of basic task competence – with Jono starting the discussion with misplaced praise for my own projects (apologies for the poor audio quality – I’m in the market for a new Skype recorder):

With an idiosyncratic Chur, my chat with Jono drew to a close.  We swapped Beervana schedules, and promised to shout each other a beer when we meet in Wellington (a custom which defies mathematical principals by not being remotely equal to buying the beer yourself).  As I was packing away my laptop, the tagline of the Brew Hui project popped into my head: Good Beer Brings People Together.  It’s a tad mushy, sure; but continues to ring true nonetheless.

See you at Beervana, Jono; it’s unequivocally my round. Then, yours.

Twitter: @jasegurney | Facebook: www.facebook.com/brewhui

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