So a little ways back, I was able to test out and review the Bouncer inline beer filter. I thought it would be a great time to pick the brains of the guys behind the product that is starting to take the homebrew community by storm! There has been some great feedback about the Bouncer, and people are chomping at the bit to get the Mac Daddy, which is my favorite of the two! Without further interruption, here is an insight with one of the Bouncer’s creators, Doug Kline.
Doug, thanks for agreeing to a quick interview about you and the Bouncer!
Thanks. Would I like to drone on about my favorite hobby? Sure! I’m more of the brewer (of the two creators), so I’m going to respond.
How long have you been homebrewing? What got you into it?
I’m kind of new to brewing, but I jumped in deep when I finally got it right. I tried brewing a couple of times in the past, and didn’t have much success. I tried for awhile in 1995 or so with mail-order equipment and ingredients, then again around 2003 when a small brew supply store opened up near me. Both times, the beer I made I just didn’t want to drink. In the Fall of 2013, I got a new neighbor who had brewed with a friend. Our first batch was a partial mash in the driveway, an Irish Ale recipe from Wilmington Homebrew Supply, and we hit a home run. Great beer. I was hooked. I quickly geared up to do all-grain and keg.
You have created a great product, the Bouncer.. What prompted you to build it?
I love the look of a crystal clear beer. I don’t know why, but the visual aspect of my beer has always been really important to me. The original problem I was trying to solve was during the transfer from a primary fermenter to a keg. I always seemed to move a bunch of very visible gunk over into the keg. Maybe I was trying to hard to get every bit of beer with my auto-siphon, and I didn’t have the ability to cold-crash at that time. I experimented with some other techniques: secondaries, finings, just avoiding the bottom of the fermenter, paper filters, etc. I wasn’t really happy with the extra effort involved, reduced yield, and potential for sanitation issues or oxidation.
How long did it take to design and refine it – does it interfere with a day job at all?
Looking back, it doesn’t seem like it took that long, but I’d say we worked on it for two solid years. At first, I was buying brass fittings from the home improvement store, and using cheesecloth as the filter media. Tim is a childhood friend, and I knew he had a lot of product development experience and connections to manufacturing companies, so I sent him this concept drawing in December of 2014. We found some industrial suppliers that got close to what we wanted, so when I brewed, I would try various configurations and filter media. I knew I wanted it gravity-fed, easy to clean and sanitize, and closed (I didn’t want to introduce too much air). While I was refining the product, Tim came up with the Bouncer brand name, we got another childhood friend to work on developing a logo, and we started to think about how we could get it available to homebrewers. We found a great packaging company, talked with distributors, retailers, bankers, brewers, etc. It all takes time.
Did it get in the way of work? It has been so much fun. We have made a rule that we have to have a beer every time we meet. It’s what we look forward to working on. It’s so much fun, I think we’re generally happier people, and probably more effective in our day jobs.
What is the biggest thing you have learned in the birth of the Bouncer process?
We had a pivotal moment where we had to go all in. It’s a new, unproven product, and we’re a little startup. We were worried about the risk of a startup. Distributors were hesitant and trying to negotiate unreasonable terms. Everyone in the supply chain wanted a large markup and no risk. We saw that the Bouncer filter was going to end up over-priced, retailers wouldn’t want to carry it, and brewers wouldn’t get to use it. We finally decided to commit, have a large quantity custom-manufactured, custom-packaged, and offer it directly to brewers and brew supply shops through an Amazon store to get started. It cut out multiple layers of middlemen, allowed us to keep the price reasonable, and we control the entire supply chain. We can make decisions without waiting for some “big” company to approve.
Any projects in the works for the future? (wink wink)
We’re so happy that the standard bouncer is exceeding our expectations, and we’re moving with manufacturing our next product, the Mac Daddy Bouncer inline beer filter in the very near future. It’s bigger, with better flow rate and more filter surface area so it’s better able to handle dry-hopped brews and larger batches. We’re finalizing packaging and manufacturing.
We also have a number of great ideas that we’re stoked to work on. At the same time, we’re still very much an infant company, so we’re trying not to get too ahead of ourselves.
What was your biggest homebrewing mistake or let down? Why?
Early on, I had a Kolsch that I was really excited about. The first bottle I tried of it was skunky and sulphury. I was really disappointed, and really considered throwing all of it out. And here’s where the community aspect of brewing is so important. I took a few bottles of it down to my brew supply shop, Wilmington HomeBrew Supply and had a bunch of people try it. One guy I had never met asked what temp I pitched at. I said it was a little high, maybe 78F. He said, “Yeah, it’s that Kolsch yeast. Let it sit in the fridge for a few weeks. It will be fine.” After a month in the fridge, it was a different beer. And a really good beer. That guy has since opened up New Anthem Beer Project and puts out stunning beers.
What are you most proud of with homebrewing? Why?
I like to brew low-gravity low-hopped full-flavor beers. I’ve been really happy with a couple of my straight-forward beers: Quiet Man Dry Irish Stout and Sean Thornton Porter. (I’m a big fan of the John Wayne & Maureen O’Hara movie “The Quiet Man”.) Everyone always likes them – they’re light, refreshing, but full of flavor. I am also proud of my version of “Holiday Prowler” (http://byo.com/hops/item/2275-holiday-prowler/), which I always brew for the holidays. It’s an old award-winning recipe by Gordon Strong. To me, it’s Christmas in a mug. Very balanced combination of a lot of flavors without going over the top in alcohol or spice. Great example of what used to be considered a “big” beer, at 5.8%.
What does you current brewing rig(s) look like? How big of batches?
I still work with entirely “budget” brew equipment. I have a keggle I made from a valve and a keg a guy sold me for $20. I have a 10 gallon water Home Depot with a false bottom as a mash tun. I made a rolling brew table from two back-to-back kitchen cabinets and a wooden top. I enjoy doing 10 gallon all-grain batches when I have the time, but I usually split the wort into two batches and try something different with each. When I pressed for time, I do a full-boil partial mash and am generally really happy with the results. When it’s really cold, I do a concentrated boil on my kitchen stove with a paellero (counter-top burner for paella) I bought in Spain.
Here’s my total set up:
- Yeast starters in growlers
- Mash tun
- 10 gallon Home Depot Water cooler with false bottom & valve
- 15.5 Miller light keg keggle
- Turkey fryer
- Wort Chilling
- Big cooler for ice
- Double-coil copper
- I put the cooler up on my brew table, and gravity feed ice water through the wort chiller. I’ve tried using a pump, but the gravity flow-rate uses less ice and chills faster.
- Oxygen tank & fizzy stone
- Clear PET large-mouth plastic carboys
- Chest freezer (got for free) with home-made digital temperature controller for the fermentation chamber
- chest freezer ($80)
- 2X8 collar gorilla-glued in place
- Replaced digital temperature controller
- CO2 tank hung inside
- Mis-matched Perlick taps
- Pin-lock used kegs
- Homemade kegerator –
- Red solo cups (frosty mugs for special occasions)
How often do you brew? What was your most recent brew? What’s on deck?
I’m embarrassed to say that my limiting factor is my consumption 🙂 I can only fit three kegs in my kegerator, and I have one more keg on standby. I use that fourth keg for conditioning when I can. My most recent brew was my version of Holiday Prowler. The Bouncer has definitely influenced my brewing. It’s pushed me to try things I wouldn’t normally, to see how the filter works with different beers and methods. My fourth keg is empty right now, and it’s cold outside. I haven’t brewed a Stout in a while. I think I may experiment with a Dry Irish Stout by changing up the grain bill a little. I’m also considering a Dark Mild. Hoppy beers seem more appropriate to Spring and Summer to me, so I like to do malty, roasty beers when it’s cold out.
What skill do you not have now that you wish you did?
I’d like to control my carbonation better. I learned my technique from a guy who’s name I don’t remember. “Crank up the pressure and rock the keg for exactly two songs on the radio.”
I’ve gotten to spend some time in and outside of London, and I really appreciated their understated ales. One of the main things that was so good about it was the lower carbonation level. It allowed more subtle malt, yeast, and spice flavors to come through. In general, the beers I had were more interesting, easier drinking, and paired better with meals. I need to hit the books, and get more scientific with my carbonating practices.
What is the best tool/toy (not made by you) that you have? What prompted you to get it?
I’m pretty happy with my brewing setup, but am always looking for more convenience without sacrificing beer quality. From that perspective, I have been really happily surprised by the clear large-mouth PET carboys. So much easier to clean and I can see what’s going on. Lighter and easier to move around and thoroughly sanitize,I’m convinced they’ve improved my beer. I was using glass, then buckets. Glass carboys are too heavy, expensive, hard to clean, and unnerving – I always expected them to shatter on my garage floor. Buckets were cheap and easy, but I wanted to see the krausen, and they were always losing their seal. That being said, I have been lusting after some of the conical fermenters lately. I also LOVE my stainless steel growler shaped like a keg. So easy to take to a friend’s, put in a fridge, or throw in a cooler.
Often homebrewers talk about what should be on their wishlist – what is on yours?
As mentioned above, I have been lusting after conical fermenters. Also, it would be great to go electric. My brewing right now is fairly dependent on the whether. If it’s windy and cool, I have trouble getting a strong boil, or my propane turkey fryer blowing out entirely. But it also gets really hot and humid at times (I’m on the coast in the South, in Wilmington, NC), which means a July or August brew day can be brutally hot. I have this vision of an electric system that I can vent out of my garage, in which I put a window AC unit.
On the serving side, I’d love to have indoor taps. If we can all have cell phones, then we could all have a small cold rooms with lines to taps in their house.
Is it just you two, or a group that brews together, or individually?
I don’t have a regular brew partner. But I almost always brew with others. I’ll brew in a neighbor’s driveway while we watch sports in his garage. I’ll invite new brewers over and host dueling brews, or bring my gear and join another brewer on their brew day. I tell everyone I know what day I’m brewing and invite them to stop by.
What do your wives/significant others (if you have one) think of all this?
My wife doesn’t like beer, but she really appreciates the cider I’ve brewed. I currently have a pear cider on tap for her. She really likes our local brew supply shop, and we frequently go there to hang out and socialize. But she always has cider. At home, she pretty much lets me do what I want in the garage. Every once in awhile I invade the kitchen and do an indoor brew. We tend to share growlers with our friends and family, and I think she really appreciates the social nature of the beer/brewing community.
What do you find as your best place to go for information/resources?
I read a lot, and watch some videos, but hands-down, the best place for information is my local brew supply store , and the community of brewers there. The books are great, but only get you so far. There’s nothing like describing your particular goal or situation and having another brewer give you their opinion. Everyone has a slightly different process, setup, mindset, palate, or whatever. You might not take their recommendation, but it’s almost always a thoughtful perspective from a kindred spirit who wants your beer to be better, just like they want theirs to be better. I’ve gotten the best advice and learned the most from bringing my beer down to the supply shop and sharing it with others.