How I Got Started: Erik Howell

Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Erik Howell. I’m an Indianapolis native that recently moved to Portland, OR and have been brewing for just over 10 years. I love all forms of fermentation, and would consider myself a “maker/survivalist”. Haha. Sounds better than “doomsday prepper” doesn’t it? I first got introduced into craft beer in the early 2000’s when I was in college. There was a craft beer bar just down the street from my house called The Heorot Pub and Draught House that had an excellent selection of great beer from all over the country/world. They had a mug club that allowed you to get a special mug if you bought one of each beer they offered in the bar. I tried as many different beers as I could afford, however there was no touching that achievement 🙂

I remember a friend’s misfortune with his Mr. Beer kit in college, and I was absolutely certain I could do better. I ended up with the same Mr. Beer kit as a Christmas gift in ‘06 and went absolutely nuts. I did a bunch of reading (The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, How to Brew, Radical Brewing, etc) and went a little overboard on sanitizing. In the very beginning I was literally wearing a facemask and covering my countertops with Saran Wrap sprayed down with StarSan solution. It was like a scene out of Breaking Bad. My roommate at the time was super inspired, and footed the bill for a 5 gallon kit from Great Fermentations that I started using pretty regularly. I was an extract brewer for a long time (admittedly the first 5 years). The beer I was making was OK. I continued to acquire equipment and fine tune my brewing practices and things got much better over time.
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I started a small beer tasting group/blog in 2012 called Beer is My Passion or B.I.M.P. We organized blind tastings in an effort to educate ourselves about what we liked and disliked about different styles of beer. Later I formed a homebrew club out of the group, and started pouring homebrew at beer festivals. It was so much fun! Right about this time I met my soon to be wife Jenn, and we started brewing together. We got involved in competitions, more beer festivals, and networking in the Indy beer community. We were officially out of control. Soon we were branching out into cider, wine, pickles, etc. Beer turned into a gateway for all things fermented.

After a few years running BIMP, I found that many of my friends were more interested in the blind tastings than they were in brewing competitions. I was now working part time at my local homebrew shop, and was meeting other like-minded homebrewers that were also entering competitions. We were all competing independently even though we supported each others successes and failures. Ultimately this new group of brewers grew into Circle City Zymurgy. Now that I’m in Portland, I certainly miss my friends, the meetings, and social events that CCZ hosts. I still have a small hand in maintaining CCZ’s website, and still enter beers via our club. Recently I’ve been making various meads, wines, and beer in my new home. I’m hoping to build steam for the coming year’s competitions, and who knows maybe I’ll see some of you at NHC in Portland next year!

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