Expert Q and A – Juno Choi from BSG HandCraft

Juno Choi BSG

Juno Choi, Marketing Manager at BSG HandCraft and Founder of Chop Liver Craft Beer Festivals has been a craft beer lover since 1998 and a homebrewer since 2000. He’s worked in a number of spots in the homebrewing and craft beer industry including his current spot at BSG HandCraft and a 10 year stint at Northern Brewer. In Juno’s current role at BSG HandCraft he oversees the various marketing content of the division including but not limited to the website, social media, conferences, and new products. He is also a Certified Cicerone® and Certified Beer Judge through the BJCP.

I got to know Juno not too long after tasting Patagonia IPA, a beer that he put together for the National Homebrewers Conference. It’s a great beer… you should brew it! Not only is Juno a great brewer and a great guy, he’s also a knowledgeable industry insider.

Juno took questions on the morning of Friday February 27, 2015.  You can read those questions and answers below.  If you’re not seeing the discussion click “# Replies” below.

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36 thoughts on “Expert Q and A – Juno Choi from BSG HandCraft

  1. Raz

    Hello Juno,
    My beers always taste a little thinner than I would like. I have varied mash temps and the only thing that seems to help is adding massive quantities of dextrin malts. I use a electric burner, and while I get a rolling boil, I’m worried I’m not getting enough heat to get some caramelization going (I’m not even sure that reasoning is legit). Have you guys at BSG ever studied how malt sugars respond to varying levels of heat?
    Thanks!

  2. Kevin O'Leary

    Hi Juno,

    I consider myself an advanced homebrewer, and I’ve won serval medals, but they have all been recipes from Brewing Classic Styles. Now I know the saying that even if you use someone elses recipes it’s still your own because your equipment, water, etc.. is different. But now I want to really start creating my own recipes from scratch. Do you have any tips on where to start? I have read Designing Great Beers, but still fell pretty overwhelmed.

    Thanks.

    1. Juno Choi

      Hi Kevin,

      Coming from the background of working at a homebrew shop and now an ingredient supplier, what has helped me is really getting to know your ingredients. People are just starting to realize what many craft brewers already know, that maltsters matter and not all malts are created equally. If a shop has English Chocolate malt listed, as them from who is comes from. You as a consumer, deserves to know.

      I would suggest going to your LHBS or online and purchase a bunch of small amounts of malt and literally eat them. Chefs do it, why not you? Then pick a few to brew with and see what flavors came though. Hopefully, you saved a little bit of the malt you used and can eat it while sampling the beer it was made from.

      Another way to approach creating your own recipes is to start tweaking current ones. It is important to think of what you want to change and how you might go about it. And don’t get too complicated here, just change one ingredient at a time so you get to learn the effect on the final brew.

      For me the things about creating a “go to” recipe is that you never get it right the first time. You have to brew it over and over to get it exactly how you want it.

      Also stay true to your tastes, it sometimes allows brewers to think outside the box and create something wonderful.

      Finally, keep brewing. The more you do, the more you start to understand. Wish you all the best!

  3. Peter Valleau

    Hi Juno,
    THanks for taking the time with us.
    I’d like to introduce some home grown fruit flavors into my beers. We grow guava, passion fruit and citrus.
    I have a batch of Kolsch that I added 6 cups of guava puree conditioning now but it doesn’t have much guava aroma. I’m also fermenting an IPA with grapefruit juice and zest.

    Any tips as to quantities and methods of introducing the fruit?

    1. Juno Choi

      Hi Peter,

      Sounds like some great fruits! Being located in Minnesota, I don’t have access to much tropical type fruits. So I am jealous!

      I have added fruit in the secondary fermenter or a little bit in the primary fermenter and the rest in secondary fermenter to lessen the effects of aroma scrubbing from the vigorous primary fermentation.

      Some fruits are really hard to get great aromas without using a lot of the fruit, and I mean a lot of fruit. I would use a lot more guava on your next go around with that beer. Just for example, some melomels (fruit meads) I make, I use 20 lbs of fruit for a five gallon batch! That means a much bigger primary fermenter to start of with (to accommodate all that fruit) and it can be costly if buying the fruit instead of growing it.

      I hopes this helps. Man, I want some guava right now. 🙂

  4. Juno Choi

    Hi Chris,

    We have considered and all grain beer kit line and it is still on the table.
    As for gadgets, I can’t think of anything off the top of my head but expect more ingredients from us this year.

    As for all grain Scottish ale, my favorite malt for that is Simpsons Golden Promise. Simpsons or Crisp Maris Otter works well too. I tend to mash slightly higher for that style. As for the Session IPA, I would say just follow the instructions and you should be fine. Since it is an extract kit, and to keep it lighter in color, I might suggest a late addition of the malt extract, especially if you are doing a smaller, concentrated boil.

    It was my pleasure visiting you! Our new sales manager should be out your way in the coming months. Cheers!

  5. Chris

    It seems like most of my beers end up drying out too much for my taste. I’ve tried increasing mash temps, adding a bit more more malt, and using different less attenuating yeast strains. The only thing I’ve found that works is brewing a high gravity beer. This isn’t just one recipe… it’s across a lot recipes (mostly hop forward beers like pale ales and ipas). Any tips for getting more body and a maltier beer in the 5 to 7% ABV range? Thanks ahead of time.

    1. Juno Choi

      Hi Chris,

      You pretty much nailed various ways to increase the body of your beers and thus it could be a more subjective thing. One thing to try is using a little bit of munich malt to get a “maltier” character to your beer. Or add dextrin malts, like Simpsons Caramalt or Weyermann Carafoam. Also play around with different base malts as some taste “fuller” and “richer”. Maybe something like a Crisp Gleneagles Floor-malted Maris Otter.
      If that doesn’t satisfy your palette, try adding a bit of maltodextrin. Also for certain styles, maybe adding some adjuncts for mouthfeel could help get what you desire. I hope that helps a bit. Cheers!

    1. Juno Choi

      Hi Stephen,

      I would say my “go to” yeast strain is Fermentis SafAle US-05 based on it’s versatility. That being said I do use some liquid yeasts as well. Generally, I make 10 gallon batches at a time and almost always split the batches and use two different yeast strains. That really helps me understand what influence the yeast has on the beer. Also temperature is a big factor in yeasts so play around with that as well.
      I have been impressed with the new Abbaye yeast from Fermentis as well. I’ve only used it a handful of times but it’s been great for brewing higher gravity Belgian styles.

    1. Juno Choi

      Hi Chris,

      For me, it’s always Turtle’s for the best bar in Shakopee for beer. The owner, Bryan, is a big craft beer guy and thus always has an excellent selection, and some great food. I really like their pizzas.

      I’m also excited that the taproom for Badger Hill Brewing is now open! Super happy that Shakopee has a brewery and taproom. Great group over there and great beers.

  6. Chris M.

    Hi Juno. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

    Had BSG ever considered a line of all-grain ingredient kits?

    Any new gadgets or interesting equipment on the horizon?

    I’ll be brewing an all grain Scottish ale this weekend as well as the BSG Session IPA kit. Any tips?

    Disclosure: I work part time at my lhbs do 99% of the homebrew supply ordering and it was great meeting you when you visited Jim and I at Cornhusker Beverage last March.

    1. Juno Choi

      Hi Chris,

      We have considered and all grain beer kit line and it is still on the table.
      As for gadgets, I can’t think of anything off the top of my head but expect more ingredients from us this year.

      As for all grain Scottish ale, my favorite malt for that is Simpsons Golden Promise. Simpsons or Crisp Maris Otter works well too. I tend to mash slightly higher for that style. As for the Session IPA, I would say just follow the instructions and you should be fine. Since it is an extract kit, and to keep it lighter in color, I might suggest a late addition of the malt extract, especially if you are doing a smaller, concentrated boil.

      It was my pleasure visiting you! Our new sales manager should be out your way in the coming months. Cheers!

  7. Jared

    Thanks for doing this Juno!

    Can someone who doesn’t have a great palette:
    A. Be taught one?
    B. Still be able to create interesting beers?

    I can obviously tell a great beer from a mediocre beer but I am not someone who can say “man, I probably should have had 10% crystal instead of 5%”. I can taste the forest but not the trees, so to speak.

    1. Juno Choi

      Hi Jared,

      I think someone who doesn’t have a great palette can be taught one to some extent. I think the mantra should be: keep tasting and keep describing. It’s especially important to describe out loud what you taste and don’t taste. It really helps refine your palette. Also once you start to get to know the ingredients better, you can really then start to determine things. Again, experiment. Grab a friend or get your club to brew beers with different percentages of a malt and compare them side by side. It might help to distinguish what 10% versus 5% of crystal actually tastes like.

      I know some people with some below average palettes due to medical conditions and others with a poor sense of smell who make some great beers. One thing is to get feedback from others, and honest feedback. Not just your friends but from others.

      Good luck and don’t give up!

  8. JT

    Hey Juno

    I’ve had a few great smoked beers that I’ve really enjoyed. I’ve also had some that are over the top and come out tasting like an ash tray. Do you have any tips for what smoked malt to use and in what ratio?

    Thanks!

    1. Juno Choi

      Hi JT,

      I would say it all depends on two factors: 1) what type of beer you are trying to brew and 2) what types of smoked malt you will be using.

      For example if you wanted to make an authentic rauchbier, I would use Weyermann Beech Smoked Barley and use around 30% of your grain bill, but that’s me. Some people use a much higher percentage.

      So ask yourself what are you going for? And what type of smoke character you want. Their are peated versions, cherry wood smoked ones, or you can even smoke your own (which I have not done, but might after this post). Also Weyermann has an Oak Smoked Wheat which is very interesting.

      Btw: I love a good Alaskan Smoked Porter. They smoke their own malt using alder wood.

  9. Chris

    Hi Juno,

    What’s your take on wild yeast? What parts of the US do you think give better results? How would you go about obtaining a decent culture? Any off-beat ideas for beers using wild yeast (outside the standard Belgium types)?

    1. Juno Choi

      Hi Chris,

      Unfortunately, I’m not much of a wild yeast guy. Meaning, I don’t know too much on the subject but I do love drinking beers made from wild yeast.
      As a side note: One of my former coworkers, Jeremy King, obtained wild yeast from Wisconsin grown barley and now it is currently used in Lakefront Brewery Wisconsonite.

  10. Antonio

    Hello Juno!

    Not sure if this applicable, but what are the pros and cons of opening a brew pub as opposed to a brewery ? (financial and production )

    1. Juno Choi

      Hi Antonio,

      I don’t think I can answer that question for you. My best best would be to talk to as many owners of brewpubs and breweries you can. Brewpubs involve running two business though, not only do you have to brew, you have to run a restaurant. You’ll also want to look at if you can distribute as a brewpub in your state. Sorry, I couldn’t have been of more assistance.

    1. Juno Choi

      Hi Steve,

      A few new hops that BSG HandCraft will have this year will be:

      Jarrylo™: A dwarf cultivar considered to be a dual purpose hop by most brewers that has aroma & flavor characteristics of banana, pear, and orange.

      Azacca™: The hop formerly known as #483 from the American Dwarf Hop Association. Azacca™ is named for the Haitian god of agriculture. Aroma & flavor characteristics: Intense and tropical. Sustained impressions of citrus and very ripe mango, with notes of orchard fruit (pears, apples) and pine needles throughout.

      Waimea: A dual purpose hop (but more for aroma in my opinion) bred and released by the NZ Hort Research Centre in 2012. Waimea is the granddaughter of Pacific Jade. Aroma & flavor characteristics: Assertive citrus fruit aromas, with subtle pine notes.

      As for malts, you will see more being added to the the BSG HandCraft line. One I hope to add later this year is Simpsons Double Roasted Crystal. That malt just tastes amazing!

  11. Jason Hammond

    Hello Juno,

    I have heard this past year was a tough year for malt crops. Do many of the malts we homebrewers use come from U.S. farms or are most malts from outside the U.S.?

    Do you see there being a growth in the number of malt producing farms and new maltsters being a trend in the U.S. with the craft brewery growth we are currently having?

    How can you determine if the malt you are buying to brew with is fresh and in the best conditions for use?

    Thank you!

    1. Juno Choi

      Hi Jason,

      Malts come from a variety of places but I would say most come from out of the US. Think about the maltsters out there and a majority of the companies are from the UK, Germany or Belgium. That being said we have US maltsters like Rahr Malting Co. and Briess Malting Co. but not many more of that size or stature in the brewing world. Now when you are talking about barley, I would say a lot of the barley used from the US maltsters comes from North America, mainly Canada but certainly malt from US farms is used too.

      I do see new maltsters popping up. I think you see the same thing with hop growers as well. Exciting times for being a brewer.

      As for checking to see if the malt is fresh, I would shop from a store that does a lot of business to ensure they are turning over their product quickly. Also, you can check for lot code dates on some bags. That being said, the best way is to taste the malt in your mouth. This is something you can even experiment with at home by leaving some malt exposed for a while then tasting it compared to some fresher malt.

  12. Matt

    Hey Juno, thanks for doing this!

    So, favorite beer you’ve brewed?

    What are the affordances of homebrewing versus commercial brewing?

    How is acid malt made?

    1. Juno Choi

      Hi Matt,

      I would say one of my favorites was an IPA using Nelson Sauvin aged in a Sauvignon Blanc Barrel. It was a fun to see how Nelson Sauvin, which was partly named for having notes of Sauvignon Blanc, melded with a barrel that once housed Sauvignon Blanc. Plus it was a good friends wedding and the groom and bride helped brew the beer.

      As for the affordances of homebrewing versus commerical. I always like to say that homebrewers have the luxury to spend more on their beer. Generally, we get to brew without constraints of a corporate budget.

      As for acid malt, the short story is lactic acid is applied to the malt. I don’t know too much more than that, like when it is applied to the malt, but I will investigate further.

      1. Matt

        If you get any definitive answers, let me know! Would love to hear about it. I’ve been a part of quite a few debates, there doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer to the process involved, so I figured I’d ask.

  13. Juno Choi

    Greetings!
    Juno Choi here. I’m happy to answer questions where I can relating to the homebrew industry and malting. Thank you to Homebrew Finds for inviting me. Cheers!

    1. Juno Choi

      Hi Doug!

      Great question. I got started in homebrewing by mentoring. A dear friend asked me if I wanted to brew beer since there was a homebrew shop nearby. He had homebrewed with his Dad when he was a teenager and his Dad had passed his knowledge on to his son. And my friend passed that knowledge on to me. Once the homebrewing bug bit, the rest was history. First extract for a few years then all-grain. Also to note, my friend later became a brewer for Goose Island Brewing Company. Many thanks to him.

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