Q&A: Craig Lyons on his Classic 10 Project (Ottawa, ON)

CHA: Give us a quick introduction about yourself. Where do you live, and what do you do when you’re not homebrewing?

My name is Craig Lyons and like many people from Ottawa, I work for the Federal Government.  I’ve lived in the Kanata suburb for basically my entire life and it’s here that my wife and I are raising our two sons, Joshua (13) and Nikolas (11).  I don’t typically brew much throughout the summer as our family spends most of our time at the lake where conditions are more suited to other activities.  In the fall and through the spring, if I am not brewing or playing hockey, you will find me at the local arenas coaching minor hockey. 

CHA: How did you get into homebrewing, and how long have you been homebrewing?

My father-in-law, Carl, served me my first pint of homebrew.  A co-worker of Carl’s was into brewing and sent home a 2L PET bottle for us to try.  I’m hazy on the memory, I believe it may have been an English Bitter, but I do recall that I was amazed at the quality. The pint sparked my interest in the hobby and a short time later, probably around 2009, I brewed my first batch, a Cascade SMASH.  Note – Years later I came to realize the 2L PET bottle was brewed by Todd Skinner of Skinaney Brewing Supplies, one of Ottawa’s first Homebrew Shops. 

Brown Porter. Photo courtesy of Craig Lyons.

CHA: Why did you decide to do this Classic 10 project?

Drew Beechum’s 2012 NHC presentation, “Brewing on the Ones: Zen & the Art of Hombrewing“.  You’ll notice there is a simplicity to many of the Classic 10 recipes.  The project is an extension of Beechum’s methodology.

CHA: What goes into planning to brew a style for this project?

I’ve brewed these styles multiple times over the last 11 years. Planning is mostly looking back on old recipe notes, glancing at the BJCP style guidelines, bouncing ideas off fellow homebrewers.  Where possible, I’ll try and buy a commercial example for comparison.  For both the American and British styles, for inspiration, I love to try and find recipes that have been posted online by breweries.  The UK brewer don’t give out much beyond ingredients but the American brewers will often spell out their recipes right down to percentages.  Some even scale their recipes to the standard 5 gallon batch size. 

CHA: In your words, what are the Classic 10?

My wife and I have dreams of opening our own brewpub. The idea would be to offer our favorite comfort foods, some of which are family heirloom recipes, paired with classic English and American Ales. I suppose the Classic 10 would be the fantasy lineup for our future operation! Each of the 10 styles has a timeless quality and most are the granddaddy ales for which much of the craft beer industry has made their mark.  Even if the pub never does come to fruition, these are the styles I like to drink.

Craig Lyons not homebrewing. Photo courtesy of Craig Lyons.

CHA: What was something interesting or unexpected that you’ve learned so far from this project?

Can I name two?

  1. London Ale III is such a widely used and loved strain, yet I’ve found the yeast very difficult to work with. The ambient temperature in my fermentation area is quite cold through the winter months, I’ve really struggled to maintain temperatures in the ideal range. I’ve also noted a drastic 20% difference in attenuation between first and second pitches. Having brewed 7/10 styles already, I feel locked into finishing off the project with Wyeast 1318 but in hindsight, I wish I would have used a more temperature tolerant strain.
  2. Video editing is time consuming. Brewing with one hand while attempting to shoot video with the other is a special kind of skill. 

CHA: Has this project changed your perception about any particular style? 

I wouldn’t say that my perception has changed, however I’ve been reminded how much I enjoy a well balanced pint of English Bitter. Such a fantastic everyday beer. 

CHA: It looks like you’ve made tons of progress and only have a few styles left! What are your plans for after this project?

I’ve been tossing around the idea of a SMaSH series using Pale Ale malts from a different maltsters (CMC, Weyermann, Grambrinus, Crisp, etc…) 

CHA: Would you recommend anyone else to do something similar?

Yes, for sure!  It’s an awesome way to keep the hobby fresh and interesting. 

CHA: Any other thoughts?

Shout-out to the MoB and CASK for keeping me motivated. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during these crazy times!

Cover photo courtesy of Craig Lyons. It’s a photo of his American Brown Ale.

You can read more about Craig’s Classic 10 project on his website here.

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