Ask Cougar, inaugural edition

By Scott Hargrave

Cougar_thumb Hello brewers, my name is Scott Hargrave (aka Brother Cougar) and i've been a member of the Canberra Brewers since taking up brewing in mid 2006. Since then I have been fortunate enough to have worked as a brewer at the Sunshine Coast Brewery in Queensland, and now brew for Stone & Wood in beautiful Byron Bay, NSW.

I still brew a lot at home on gear that was sold too cheap, or given to me by the Late and sadly missed Craig Robinson (R.I.P). Along the way i've been lucky enough to pick up a few gongs, both professional and amateur, and have made some sensational mates, particularly in the Canberra Brewers club, but also the wider professional brewing industry.


I am honoured to have been asked to provide an advice column to this fine club, and i'll endeavour to take on the big questions, the little questions, the profound, the pathetic and maybe squeeze out a few giggles while we're at it. I also encourage questions that are highly technical or marital in nature, and in the unlikely event any of these happen to be too hard, I will either:

  • artfully dodge
  • palm off to someone smarter
  • pretend i didnt hear the question, or
  • lie

Anyhoo, let us begin…

Rock On,


Dear Cougar, what would happen if you hooked up a glycol chiller and HERMS system and step-mashed backwards?

My guess is cold wet porridge, followed swiftly by a self administered uppercut to the head….it would end up,in a word, flaccid…so something very much like a coldplay or kings of leon concert…do you really hate yourself that much ?…Some things in the Universe progress in one direction only… 


Cougar, why the pornstar look for your forum avatar? There must be a story there.

That picture is of one thye true Gods of Rock, Mr Derek Smalls of Spinal Tap fame, the King of 8 string twin neck sex bass… If i can ever afford plastic surgery thats my look right there… Derek is both unique and generic and all class…


What do you reckon are the three most important things to get right in all-grain brewing?

 The three most important things in any brewing in my opinion are:

  • 1) Sanitation: remember you cant sanitize anything that is not propery clean,is your cleaning regime thorough and effective ?
  • 2) Yeast health and fermentation control: happy healthy yeast and quick orderly fermentations are the key to good beer. Happy healthy yeast will have ample nutrient supplies, most importantly nitrogen (especially free amino nitrogen or F.A.N., short protein rests help promote this) and enough available oxygen during the growth phase to build an adequate population high in both viability and vitality.
  • 3) Preventing oxidation: probably the most common defect in beer, any beer, is oxidation. I think it's worth the extra effort to use CO2 to push your beer around during transfers, racking filling etc. Make sure you are always pushing your beer to an oxygen free (as much as possible) environment. Don't be scared (or too tight) to use a bit of gas, because your beer is worth it, isn't it ? The most common comment I heard from brewers at club meetings was "uumm it didnt taste like that at home/yesterday/last week etc". Again, staling is another process that only goes in one direction.
  • * free bonus answer 4) Mash in to Led Zeppelin or Down or Pantera or Soundgarden or Johnny Cash.


How does being part of a Microbrewing operation differ from brewing in the shed? What have you had to learn in order to adapt one style to the other. I imagine you can't afford to tip a eleventy-bajillion-gigalitres of beer down the drain, so what happens when you fluff it up?

For me the differences aren't that great. I started brewing at home with the idea in my mind to brew as professionally as possible. By that I mean that I treated the beer I brew at home as if I was going to charge people good money to buy it. The main real differences are the commercial realities of not being able to have beer spending endless weeks in tanks, and in our particular case not being able to brew 19 different beers. Which is why I still brew at home, for all the beers that the family and Stone & Wood crew ask for, and so I can tinker and experiment and generally smash shit up. I havent fluffed it up at work so far, apart from the occasional coffee.


I'm not sure how/if you are involved with this but how do you find helping start grow and develop the microbrewery under the harsh excise tax rules set by the ATO?

Tough for all involved, from our casuals to the guys who own this business, excise taking about 25% of gross revenue affects every one of us, and the ability to fund the growth and stability and eventual expansion of the business. It's a survival game for almost all small brewers.


What was the biggest challenge in shifting your entire family to another state and starting a new career in brewing?

Not caving into the crushing guilt I felt in taking my wife and kids away from their best friends and much loved school etc, to accommodate my brewing dreams. However, they loved the Sunshine Coast, and absolutely adore Byron Bay. If i was to leave here, it would now be on my own. So, when i'm bodysurfing at Wategoes Beach with the family, I always stop and think to myself "we're here because of beer! …what a load of horseshit" … but it's true!!…


That's all for this month folks. The last of the questions (which frankly weren't fit to publish in the public domain 😉 and the discussion of these questions will be continued in the members forum

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