Zok is the Coolest

Today, at the recommendation of Bill Hincks, former CT-RI Brewery Correspondant for Ale Street News, I went up to Willimantic (or Windham or whatever) to visit Zok's Homebrew Supply.

Since I found Pre-Cut to be sour, I immediately suspected every single piece of equipment in my brewery to be full of lactic Brett yeast, and in need of replacement. I soon realized that probably only the bottling stuff and fermenting bucket were likely infected, if that much, and headed out to pick up some new stuff.

I got a bottling bucket, auto siphon, blah blah blah - a bunch of bottling and other plastic stuff. But the best part was meeting the famous Zok. For those of you that don't know, Paul Zocco is Zok. He has a homebrew shop in Willimantic CT, and his knowledge and experience are vast. He does annual trips to Belgium to visit Lambic breweries and blenders as well as other great Belgian brewers. Probably does other trips, too. He writes for BYO, has a bit in Sam Calagione's Extreme Brewing book, knows people like Stan Hieronymous, and probably even more things I don't even know.

Yet with all this awesomeness, he's the easiest guy in the world to talk to. Honestly, I was pretty nervous heading up there. Fortunately, I had 51 minutes (according to MapQuest) to get over the nerves, and by the time I got there, I was excited to see the place and meet the man. I ended up spending upwards of an hour chatting about everything brewing and picking out all the stuff I needed.

Turns out Zok's passion really is with brewing. He seems particularly involved in Lambic brewing, and even has two (soon to be three) wood casks of Lambic in progress in his store. The store's sort of scattered, but there are so many cool things there. You can buy 1/4-bbl brewhouses and 1/2-bbl brewhouses from him, as well as plastic conical fermenters. He had on display a bottle of Utopias (vintage not noted), as well as empty bottles of all sorts - the ones I noticed were Newport Storm annuals from 2000-present.

Another cool thing about Zok is that he has some firm opinions, but at the same time, he's willing to let you do your own thing. A perfect example is fermenting. I used to do secondary fermentation, but stopped when I had all those flat batches. I now bottle every beer - big or small - a day or two after it's done bubbling the airlock. Zok is traditional and always does secondary, often for months. I just don't have the patience, but he respectfully stated his opinion and reasons, listened to mine, and agreed to disagree - no judgement, no arguing, not even a sigh and head shake. A perfect gentleman.

It was a real pleasure to talk with someone so well-versed in brewing, and loving it, doing it day in and day out for his work. Just an inspiration, really. I am glowing inside just thinking about it now. Even though I only ended up with just over $60 of odds and ends, I was given the royal treatment. I am hooked. I want to go back tomorrow to get my copy of Extreme Brewing signed, share some of his Lambic, and get his opinion on my Pre-Cut sour taste. I'll even bring my Mean Giant Double Stout to see what he thinks about it.

So besides a tribute to Zok, I guess the message is: try something new. You might find something awesome.

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