This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of 425 Business.
Many people enjoy a cold one after work, but home brewer Pieter Wycoff makes his own
For many, kicking back with a brewski is one of life’s great pleasures. Just ask Redmond’s Pieter Wycoff. The home-brewing enthusiast loves almost everything cold, carbonated, and cheers-worthy.
Wycoff’s favorite place to sip on a cold beer is beachside in San Diego, but the software engineer makes the most of his love of beer by brewing his own at home.
Wycoff first dabbled in home brewing in 1995, when he was an undergrad at Montana State University, but in the last four years the 43-year-old has stepped up his brew game.
In 2010, Wycoff moved from Microsoft Game Studios to work on video game platforms at Valve, the company that created his favorite video game, Half-Life. At Valve, some of Wycoff’s coworkers were involved with home brewing, and the beer bug bit Wycoff again.
“I think that brewing appeals to engineering types,” Wycoff said. “Really, we’re its core demographic, because it’s a lot of tinkering but you can still be creative and go crazy with it,” Wycoff said.
Part of the appeal of brewing for Wycoff is that when he’s creating a new batch, the only thing he has to think about is making beer.
“There’s something about being locked in to that one task,” Wycoff said. “It usually takes me about five hours for one batch, so it’s the exact opposite of being bored. Plus the end results are stress-relieving.”
Along with brewing, Wycoff counts hockey and surfing among his hobbies. (Wycoff gets bonus points because he surfs chilly Washington waves out of Westport.) But Wycoff loves that brewing beer is a hobby he can do at home with his family. His wife, Lisa, enjoys a pint of the good stuff, and home brewing allows him to be at home with his three boys — Desmond, 8; Finn, 5; and Fredrik, 3. Wycoff estimates he’s whipped out a couple hundred batches of beer in his home brew system.
Another perk of being a home brewer for Wycoff is the close-knit community he’s become a part of.
“There’s a really strong community; everyone is willing to share their knowledge,” Wycoff said. “Even professional brewers are like, ‘Sure! Glad you like it,’ and will share their recipes. Besides, it’s hard to replicate, so it’s really just fun to try out and hang out with a good group of people.”
Wycoff cites India pale ale as his favorite type of beer, but enjoys trying porters, too.
“There are so many super-great IPAs out there to buy, and they are hard to get right,” Wycoff said. “I actually like brewing porters best. I’ve made five porters with cool flavors.” Wycoff has made a raspberry porter that he says turned out quite tasty, as well as a cherry, a rye, a chocolate, and a chocolate cherry.
Wycoff uses chocolate nibs (unprocessed cocoa beans) from Fremont’s Theo Chocolate to achieve the chocolate notes in his porters. “The great thing about being a home brewer is we have access to all these great ingredients, because we only need them at a small scale. For a relatively low cost, we can try out tons of different recipes,” Wycoff said.
In December, Wycoff had his “Storm MacLeod Porter,” which he aged for three weeks in a rye whiskey barrel; “Pete’s Pumpkin Ale,” which he says resembles Elysian’s Night Owl; a Belgian witbier; and his “Penumbra Red Ale” on tap.
Wycoff’s beer names might come in handy if he ever decides to start a brewery of his own. “It’d be a ton of work to start one, but down the road if I need to switch up gears, it’s something I would like to do,” Wycoff said.
As for now, Wycoff is content trying out new recipes and frequenting as many breweries as he can. He recommends Geaux Brewing in Bellevue. For those looking to tap into home brewing, he recommends a visit to Brewhouse Provisions in Redmond.
“Start out slow,” Wycoff said. “And don’t get discouraged by mediocre results. Also, it helps to talk to other brewers. Bring them your crap beer, and they might be able to tell you what went wrong. Then re-brew the same recipe to try and improve it.”
Here are some places you can purchase home brew supplies:
17725 NE 65th St. #250, Redmond
Mountain Homebrew & Wine Supply
8530 122nd Ave. NE, Kirkland
17511 68th Ave. NE, Kenmore