The annual Homebrew Con is coming to Minneapolis. It is the largest gathering of homebrewers in the world. As such, from June 15-17 thousands of homebrewers from around the country—and the world—will call the Twin Cities their home away from home. In celebration, we have been featuring local homebrewers that call Minnesota home year-round. For our third and final installment of Minnesota Homebrewer Spotlight, we are featuring a woman with her sights set on going pro, Lori Ertl of Plymouth.
Ertl admits she may not have the longest history with homebrewing, but her five years of brewing have been intense and well-calculated. “I jumped right in and am addicted to it,” she said. “I study and research the particular brew I am about to make and that helps make them great. I like to know the history of a brew; I researched India Pale Ales for three week and then made five of them. Same with Belgians, stouts, porter, pale ale, fruit, and historical beers.”
Whether a homebrewer makes beer using malt extract or all-grain, Ertl says it doesn’t matter how long a person has been homebrewing compared to how far they take it. She explains that she started with all-grain brewing right out of the gate because she is a visual, hands-on learner. She loves the time spent in the grain room of a homebrew shop, marveling over the different levels of color and roast in the malts, tasting them individually to understand their separate and often subtle nuances.
Clearly, the research and thoughtful preparation pays off. Ertl has won 23 competition medals and placed in four Best of Show. Most recently, a historical London brown ale she brewed won a silver medal and advanced to the final round of this year’s National Homebrewers Competition, which is part of the upcoming Homebrew Con. She lives for the joy of producing high-quality beer. “When a BJCP judge tells me I make fantastic beers or asks for my recipe, that is a great compliment to me. It says I am doing it right.”
Ertl’s next step is to take her passion, intensity and creativity into the Minnesota craft beer industry. She takes homebrew-to-pro inspiration from brewers and businesspeople like Deb Loch and Jill Pavlek of Urban Growler, and Tom Berg of Wicked Wort; she wants to create a community-based brewery with emphasis on hosting charity events and local causes. Plans are in place to open a brewery and taproom in Golden Valley; it could very well be serving beer by the end of 2017. The name, Under Pressure Brewing Company, has taken on a double meaning as she deals with the process of creating a brewing company. “The amount of information, preparation, stress — and some tears — is overwhelming,” say says. “The hurdles and walls to go through are unbelievable. We are doing it without investors, which is hard to do nowadays. But it will all be worth it; I can’t wait to hug my brew equipment once it is in place!”
For now, Ertl is relishing her homebrew roots and looking forward to spending the weekend of Homebrew Con with her fellow club members from Primary Fermenters Brewers & Vintners and learning more about the craft of beermaking from dozens of presenters. Of course she’ll be keeping a close eye an eye on the winner board, hoping her name appears when they announce the medals for English Brown Ale.
[Update June 20, 2017]
Lori Erti won the gold medal for Category 12: English Brown Ale in the 2017 National Homebrew Competition, capping off an amazing career as a homebrewer before going pro.