Home-brewing offers an unusual, delicious hobby

April 21, 2014 5:58 AMComments Off

Story by Avery Gregurich

Photo by Luke Nankivell

DSC_0119-w2000-h2000While many thirsty citizens still rush to the nearest tavern or convenience store when the craving for a bottle of beer strikes, an increasing number of people are staying at home.

Instead of buying a brew someone else has crafted, these people are deciding to combine together their own hops, malt, yeast and time to craft beers of their very own.

Mark Nauman is the owner of Beer Crazy, a full service home-brew shop located in Urbandale.

Nauman said craft hobbies like home-brewing attract people with a similar personality type.

“If they are the type of person where they don’t need instant gratification, then home-brewing, wine making and cheese making tend to be good recreational opportunities for them,” Nauman said.

He said conomics do not account for a large portion of people’s decision to home-brew beer, estimating that “less than 5 percent save money.”

“If you’re drinking Budweiser, Miller or Coors, you can’t make it for what you buy it for,” Nauman said. “But if you’re drinking craft beers that tend to be around $3 to $4 a bottle, you can save money.”

Bart Schmidt, digital projects librarian at Cowles Library, has been brewing his own beer for the last two decades, starting when he was in his 20s while living in Philadelphia with some of his friends.

“We had a big, old west Philadelphia house so we had a lot of extra space,” Schmidt said. “We had an extra room we called our brewery.”

The hobby’s popularity has increased in his time. Schmidt said that, “There was a while when I thought it was just male librarians that did it.”

“Now,” Schmidt said, “It’s a hobby that a lot of people seem to be doing.”

Like Nauman, he attributes the increase in popularity to the craft aspect of the hobby rather than the currency.

“People like to make things themselves,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt is a member of the Iowa Brewers Union (IBU), a home beer-brewing club with members across central Iowa. Some of his fellow members of the IBU have taken their passion for making beer out of their garages and started businesses.

“It’s interesting to see how many people from that group have gone on,” Schmidt said.  “They started as hobbyists and have gone to do it professionally.”

Schmidt cites a 2010 bill, known as the “Iowa Beer Equality Bill,” that allowed breweries to produce beer that was above 6 percent alcohol by volume as being key in the expansion of the craft brewery industry.

“Iowa changed a couple of laws three years ago, and since then, a lot of breweries have opened up,” Schmidt said.

Tyler Nelson is a junior accounting major and has been home-brewing for nearly two months. He started brewing his own beer for a variety of reasons.

“It’s fun, it’s different. I’ve never done anything like it before, and I kind of just wanted a new hobby,” Nelson said.

In his short time brewing, he has made three different batches of beer, each in a five-gallon fermenter tucked away in the bottom of his bedroom closet. Two of those batches were a blood orange Hefeweizen, a wheat based beer. He named this beer “Ameribrew,” adorning each 22-ounce bottle with an American flag bottle cap.

The third batch he tried was what is known as a clone brew, a copied recipe of an existing commercial beer. The chosen beer was the Maharaja Imperial IPA from Avery Brewing Company in Boulder, Colo.

He estimates it costs him about $200 to purchase the necessary equipment to start brewing.

Nelson considers himself somewhat of an aficionado when it comes to beer and enjoys turning his friends on to the many different types and styles that beer assumes. He also encourages any student with the means to pursue home-brewing as a hobby to do it.

“If you have the money and extra time on your hands, and like beer, it’s fun and something you can take pride in,” Nelson said.

But, he has a warning some thirsty college students may not want to hear.

“Cleaning is 75 percent of all beer making,” Nelson said. “You don’t want anything to contaminate your beer, and you have to do most of it by hand.”

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