Chef Alex Pope, Part Three: Home brewing is a family affair

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Maybe one day they'll be serving a Pope lager behind the bar at R Bar.
  • Maybe one day they'll be serving a Pope lager behind the bar at R Bar.

About a year ago, chef Alex Pope got a call from his brother-in-law Mike, asking Pope if he was interested in brewing some beer.

"He decided he wanted to do it and asked me because he knows I'm up for anything in the kitchen," Pope says."Well, that and I have all the pots and pans."

That casual phone call opened up a whole new culinary pursuit for Pope, as the duo has spent a number of weekends working their way through the entire beer spectrum. Yesterday, Pope admitted that you might catch him in the drive-through at Pancho's enjoying a cabeza burrito. And on Wednesday, he explained how cooking was in his blood.

What have you been making? We've been going through different styles -- wheat, Irish, pale and IPA. I love beer. The first was wheat, and it was [briefly pauses] drinkable. We haven't made a bad one yet. The best may have been a coffee stout with cardamom. I've started approaching it like cooking.

The water is like the stock in sauce. Half the water was brewed coffee. Then we put in coffee malt. I've always enjoyed coffee with cardamom and vanilla beans. It was interesting, in a good way. It was smooth and floral. We used fresh hops, and somehow the hops and coffee balanced each other out. Our latest is a rye with ginger and lemon grass -- the rye comes out spicy.

What do you like to drink?

I've been to the Foundry and the Flying Saucer. I like anything that Bell's does, like the Oberon. I love Zon. I guess I'm not the typical beer guy. Tank 7 is probably my favorite beer, but I'm also a fan of Tallgrass Buffalo Sweat.

Where do you shop for equipment or ingredients?
Locally, we'll go to Bacchus & Barleycorn [in Shawnee] or just pick out a bunch of stuff online at Midwest Supplies -- they have everything you need.

What do you wish you could tell your past self about home-brewing? You got to budget more time than you think. It always takes longer than you think because you always start drinking beer. Try different styles to get the foundations down and then experiment. Because you can throw in anything you want in there. It's very much like cooking. You follow a recipe and boil stuff. It's really simple to learn.

What's next for the brewing brother-in-laws? Maybe a pomegranate oatmeal or wheat. We keep brewing IPAs, and our wives don't want to drink those. Pomegranate molasses is really cheap, and then we can give it some body.

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