Q&A: Home brewer Ben Siefker

  • Photo by Jodi Miller
By Columbus Alive
From the May 17, 2012 edition

Ben Siefker started home brewing beer after his brother — who had never home brewed — bought him some equipment and “The Complete Joy of Homebrewing” for Christmas and told him it would be easy.

It wasn’t easy at first, but after five years, Siefker has become skilled at making numerous styles of beer and has even taught his brother how to do it. Siefker is also the president of the Columbus home brewers club, SODZ (Scioto Olentangy Darby Zymurgists), and he spoke with me about all things beer.

Being an engineer, it wasn’t hard to set up my home-brewing system at all. That’s another angle I like about it; making my own equipment, setting up the system. You can make beer cheaper, but you end up buying more equipment, so it doesn’t work out that way. Brewing it just to save money is probably a bad idea.

Beer cannot contain any human pathogens. Nothing that can kill you will survive in there — no botulism, nothing like that. It might taste bad, but you’re not going to kill yourself.

I like almost every style of beer to drink. So at some point I’d like to try to brew every style. I typically brew hoppy beers, Scottish ales and stouts and also low-alcohol beers. There aren’t a lot of three-percent beers you can buy. If you have a low-alcohol beer, you can drink a lot of them and still function. You can make a low-alcohol version of pretty much anything you like.

I lived in an apartment when I started, so there’s no security deposit coming back from that place. Once that stuff boils over, it’s terrible — a black carbonized sugar.

I’ve never won Best in Show, but I’ve won individual categories in brewing competitions. The first style I won with was a witbier, so then that was a style I like to brew. Kind of a go-figure; I like that kind of beer now. I got second place with an Irish ale in an interclub competition, so now I like to brew those, too. [laughs]

SODZ meets once a month, but we have other things going on. We meet September through May and take the summer off from regular meetings, but we have events all summer long. We try to get involved in almost all of the beer events in Columbus. A lot of the big events we have booths to talk about home brewing.