Keg King Cup 2023 Winner Interview with Fiona Foley

Keg King Cup 2023 Winner Interview with Fiona Foley

Congratulations on winning the very first Keg King Cup, the competition was tough with a very strong top 8 but ultimately, we all wanted to keep drinking more of your AAAIPA and wished it was on tap in the shop!


Fiona's inspiring journey to victory: an exclusive interview delving into her winning brew, meticulous recipe formulation, and unwavering commitment to excellence. Witness the creativity and talent within the homebrewing world as we unveil Fiona's success in the inaugural Keg King Homebrewing Cup.


When did you start homebrewing?

The beginning of 2022.


What led you to homebrewing?

My husband and I both enjoy beer and we also like learning how to make things from scratch. We hadn’t really considered making our own beer earlier because of past encounters with family and friends’ homebrew back in the day with the smelly and sometimes dangerous process and the often underwhelming results. The newer fermentation techniques and equipment came to our attention and sparked our interest as something we could do together, be creative with and be able to produce a nice drop that we could enjoy with friends.


You were obviously brewing on a Fermentasaurus, how come you and your husband opted for this fermenter?

We wanted to do pressure fermentation, so initially bought the Fermenter King 35L Unitank because of its low cost and we thought we might want to collect the yeast in the bulb at the bottom to reuse for other brews (but haven't really done that yet as it seems a bit hard...). But we haven't really considered moving to another system because we like the volume, the fact that you can see what is going on and having it open at both ends makes it a bit easier to clean. The only minor downside we have found is that the area that goes down to the bulb can sometimes get a bit blocked during the fermentation, but it's nothing that a few squeezes of the bulb and a few plunges doesn't free up.


Do you have a favourite beer style to brew? And drink?

We both enjoy a nice hoppy IPA, but have recently been getting into brewing some malty Red Ales and playing around with some Oatmeal stouts with various additions like vanilla and coffee.


Which beer style have you found the most challenging to brew?

I haven’t found any of the styles that we have brewed so far more challenging than any other. I think it has taken a little while to figure out the ins and outs of pressure fermentation as it is a bit of a newer technique and the information out there can be a bit inconsistent. Also, for the beers that have a lot of dry hops, it can be a bit fiddly to try to fit them all in the headspace of our fermenter so they can be lowered in at the appropriate time without introducing air to the system.


We don’t have proper statistics, but this hobby is very male centric, what has your experience been like as a female? Have you found shops welcoming?

I must say that I haven’t come across too many other female brewers! I can’t say that I have had any negative experiences, but I am fairly comfortable working in male dominated areas. I would say that it can be a bit intimidating as a beginner brewer of any gender trying to figure out where to start. The staff in the brew shops I have been to have always been helpful, but often the layout of shops is such that you kind of need to come in knowing what you want and there can be lots of little couplings and things that can make life a lot easier that are tucked away and require awkward conversations requiring a lot of hand gestures like “is there something that can connect this bit to that other thing to wash it out…”  


Social media is a completely different beast, what is your experience like on that front?

I would say that I have probably utilized YouTube a bit for learning more about various brewing techniques. That can be a bit hit and miss. My husband listens to a few brewing podcasts. I’m not the biggest social media user in general and I guess I don’t really use it to ask questions or talk about my brewing and haven’t really spent a lot of time looking at brewing stuff on social media. From the little I have seen, it seems fairly supportive, but I tend to rely more on various websites and books for research or recipes or inspiration. 


Do you have any recommendations for other females who are considering getting into the hobby?

I think my advice for anyone wanting to get into brewing is to start small and get confident with what you are doing and then build from there. We started with a fermenter and fresh wort kits and once we were happy we had that under control, we then went to the all grain kits and then playing around with our own recipes and eventually bought a mill to have better control of the grind. I think if you enjoy drinking beer, it is really nice to be able to make what you like, how you like it, and like cooking, make tweaks and be creative. It is also really satisfying to sit down to a nice glass of your own brew. If it is something you are considering, give it a go!

Can you tell us a little bit more your winning beer, Fiona’s All Australian American IPA (AAAIPA), how did you design the recipe, and did you find our challenge of brewing an All Australian beer too difficult?


The Keg King Cup required an entry using Australian ingredients and sounded like a fun thing to have a go at as our first beer competition. We had to do a bit of research on what grains and hops were grown in Australia. We like making IPAs and the grains and hops we found seemed like they would work well with that style. We based the recipe loosely on some IPAs that we had made previously and used hop charts and descriptions to have a bit of a guess at what Australian hops might go well together and then used the Brewfather app to play around with the quantities of things to make sure it fit the style. We even found an Australian yeast, the Bluestone liquid yeast to make it all Australian. I ended up brewing this one myself because of the timing to get the entry in. It turned out really well, nicely hoppy with a good body and mouthfeel and it was really exciting to see it making it through the various knockouts and then taking out the top spot!

With your scientific background, you and your partner have been keeping track of your homebrewing journey, can you tell us more about it?


My husband Brad and I both have science backgrounds which I think has been useful in understanding what is happening in the brewing process, the water chemistry and a familiarity with things like gas lines, but it certainly isn’t required for brewing. We also bring a bit of a nerdy scientific process and curiosity to things, so we keep notes on each brew that we make which has been good for refining our methods and recipes. There were lots of things early on that we weren’t so efficient at that we would make notes on to do differently on the next brew day which has been really helpful. We also use a Tilt to monitor our fermentation in real time which is not only super fun when you are a bit of a data nerd, but it also gives us really good control of the fermentation – we can increase the temperature a bit when we see the fermentation start to fall off. The other thing we have done is to keep a spreadsheet from the very beginning of our expenses vs. beer output and have included all of the initial equipment costs as well as the consumables for each batch and it is really nice to see the price per litre dropping with each brew.

Will you be considering entering our Keg King Cup 2024?

I think we definitely have the beer competition bug now! We are thinking about putting a couple of entries into VicBrew and are keen to see what challenge the next Keg King Cup will throw down!


Fiona’s winning recipe can be found on our website by clicking on the link here: Fiona’s AAAIPA