After a long day at the office or in court, many a lawyer has been known to go out and grab a cold beer at a local establishment.
But that isn't necessary for insurance defense attorney Edward N. Storck III, who makes his own brews in the comfort of his own home.
"It's probably one of the best hobbies you can have," said Storck, who practices at Morrison Mahoney in Hartford. "It's fun, you put as much work into it as you want. There's no pressure or deadlines. You just know, hey, today's the day I'll brew this beer and sit back and relax."
Storck got started in 2007. "For my birthday, my in-laws bought me a home brew starter kit," said Storck. "I went through many batches. I'm not necessarily sure you can call them beer. There was a lot of trial and error."
He read up on home brewing in books and online. "Now I've gotten my process down," he said. "I've got my equipment the way I want it. It's a much better process at this point, and I can tell from start to finish how it's going to come out."
Storck prefers to brew "IPA's," or India pale ales. "I like the bitterness you get from the hops," said Storck, noting that he can get a good citrusy flavor that almost ends up tasting like a grapefruit. "On a nice hot day, nothing beats a good IPA for me."
Storck said the hobby can be expensive. He has a large, 7.2-cubic-foot chest freezer that can store three, five-gallon kegs. He has a "kegerator" that carbonates the beer once it's in the keg. He has a temperature controller in the freezer to make sure the brew doesn't actually freeze, which could ruin the beer. The temperature has to stay between 40 and 42 degrees.
Storck said some people like to bottle their beers, complete with homemade labels, but he doesn't go that far. He just keeps the beer in the kegs until its time to drink it. "It'll last four to six months," said Storck. "I don't drink it every day. I can bring some to a friend's house or bring some to the [home brewers] club."
And just how does one make beer? Storck broke down the basic steps, using a vocabulary unique to home brewers.
A brewer first picks out the grains he or she wants to use. Then comes the "mash" process, where grains are mixed with water in a cask-like container called a "tun." After the sugars are removed from the grains, they are mixed with water and the liquid goes into a kettle, called a "wort," where it is brought to a boil.
Hops — yes, there really is something in nature called a hop plant — are added before and during the boiling process to add flavoring and create the brew's bitter aroma. At the end of the 60- to 90-minute boil, the beer is cooled down as quickly as possible, using a device called a "wort chiller," to get the liquid to about 70 degrees.
The cooled liquid is then put into a big glass container where the alcohol ferments. The container — known as a "carboy fermenter" — is topped with a lid that allows gas to escape but no oxygen to get in. "Oxygen in beer is your enemy," said Storck, noting that it's oxygen that gives some brews a "skunky beer" taste.
The brew then generally sits for seven to 10 days, all the while the yeast is eating up sugar and creating alcohol. Then it's ready for bottling or kegging. "At the end of that time, you have your beer," said Storck.
Storck belongs to a club of 29 home brewers who call themselves The Krausen Commandos of Northwest Connecticut. The group meets the second Sunday of every month in Torrington. While meetings have an agenda and include presentations, they are also an opportunity for members to share their recently made brews and get critical feedback from others.
Though his beers keep improving, Storck isn't going to quit his day job any time soon.
"Home brewers have that little dream in the back of their head of opening their own brewery," said Storck. "Would I like to do that one day? Sure. Am I brave enough to do it? I don't know. For me, this is a hobby. I love being an attorney. It's not necessarily something I'd want to give up anyway."
Storck is a 2004 graduate of Quinnipiac University School of Law who defends motor vehicle accident and slip-and-fall cases out of the Hartford office of Boston-based Morrison Mahoney. He sees some similarities between his career and hobby. For instance, both involve a lot of "troubleshooting, analyzing everything to figure out what's the best approach to it," he said. "Throughout the process, you're trying to figure out the best way to get the best outcome. With brewing it's getting the best beer you can drink."
He continued that in both home brewing and practicing law, "there might be times along the way that trip you up, but you figure out how to fix it. There's a lot of problem solving in both things, I think."
Once you learn how to brew beers, it becomes "like riding a bicycle," he said. At that point, the whole process can be relaxing, especially the down time between steps in the brewing process. "Then you can sit back," Storck said, "and have a beer while you're making it."•