Even off the clock, Larry Shields, owner of Shields Dental Lab in Whitehall, MI, likes to keep his hands busy. Making things comes naturally to Shields, so about 12 years ago when his wife bought him a home-brew beer kit for Christmas, the brewing bug stuck. "Once I started, I never looked back," he admits.
Since his first beer, an English Bitter, Shields has wet the whistles of family and friends with all kinds of different brews. He likes to experiment with recipes: a light, wheat beer during the summer; a dark porter for the cold winter months; and he even pulled ingredients from several different recipes to mix up his own American Ale. All his beer is brewed in five-gallon kegs and served fresh from a refrigerator with an attached beer tap.
Brewing, like his lab, is a one-man operation. Often times, the magic happens mid-week or after work and gives Shields a creative outlet away from the bench--an important break, since he works over 60 hours a week in his in-house lab. His hobby also provides a social aspect: he shares stories, troubleshoots, swaps recipes and, most importantly, trades beer with a group of brewer-friends.
According to Shields, brewing and making dentures have at least one thing in common: both require a lot of attention to detail to ensure they come out right. "I've got a certain regimen I follow," Shields explains. "I like my teeth to look a certain way and I like my beer to taste a certain way."
While the steps and timing depend on the type of beer, most styles start off the same way: boiling water to 155o, steeping grains, adding malts and hops, cooling the mixture, adding the yeast and pouring into an air-tight fermenter for a week. The batch is transferred to a large container, called a carboy, for at least a week and then poured into bottles or a keg. A few weeks later, it's ready to be enjoyed.
Although he has been making dentures for 20 years, and beer for over a decade, he still loves what he does. "Do what you like to do!" says Shields. "That's the secret to staying young and excited about life!"