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What‘s on tap

Erin Cowell - March 8th, 2010
What’s On Tap: Homebrewers hope to ease a legal prohibition
By Erin Crowell
The year is 1930, and America is dry – brought on by two droughts
known as the Great Depression and prohibition. While most were
desperate to make a buck, others were looking to make a pint.
Enter the “Great Recession” of today, and things haven’t changed much.
People are out of work, money is tight, and the homebrewing business
is banging.
Today, there are close to 750,000 homebrewers in the United States, a
steady growth over the last five to six years, says Gary Glass,
director of the American Homebrewers Association (AHA).
And just as it did with the repeal of prohibition, homebrewing
(although legal, unless sold) may get a “leg-up” if state legislature
passes House Bill 5613– allowing homebrew to be served at licensed
breweries for homebrew club meetings and competitions.

The bill would allow Pastor Andrew Pomerville of Church in the Hills
Presbyterian Church in Bellaire to serve some of his own beer at a
weekly faith group meeting.
“We have a group over at Short’s Brewing called ‘Spirituality:
Untapped’ hosted by myself and another pastor from the area every
Thursday night,” says Pomerville. “We talk about whatever topic it is
for the night and do it over beer.”
Pomerville has been homebrewing for the past three years. It’s a hobby
he picked up after listening to Joe Short of Short’s Brewing,
Bellaire, talk about how he got into the craft.
“I thought it was fascinating,” says Pomerville. “Looking at what Joe
did, he’s the same age and I thought, ‘I could get into this.’”
And he did.
Pomerville meets with several other homebrewers regularly, who share
their recipes with spouses and family members.
“Brewing is a communal experience,” says Pomerville. “It’s a blast to
brew with other brewers, to share ideas and mistakes.

The absolute best way to get better at this is to learn how to taste
and learn how to critique your work and others’.”
So, what do people think of a brew pastor?
“People are usually surprised, but genuinely positive. The
congregation understands where I’m coming from. They’re comfortable
with responsible brewing and responsibly sharing it with others.”

Like Pastor Andrew, Traverse City resident Andy Largent got into
homebrewing three years ago.
“I was just looking through a magazine and found a cheap mystery
homebrewing kit for 20 bucks,” says Largent. “It was really fun—but it
didn’t turn out well—so I went out and bought a decent one from
Although known primarily for everything hats, Diversions of downtown
Traverse City is the Northern Michigan homebrewer’s mecca. The store
carries everything from dry and whole grain malt and hops to bottles,
corking equipment and labels.
“We pretty much have everything,” says Diversions employee and fellow
homebrewer Beau Ford. “We’ve got stuff for the beginners and the
experienced brewer.”
Largent buys his homebrew kits from Diversions, which includes all the
ingredients and directions for a particular flavor of beer.
“It’s the easiest way to do it,” he says. “All you need is the box and
you follow the directions and that’s it. It comes with all the proper
ingredients so it’s pretty fool-proof.”
Pomerville started using kits, but now creates his own recipes.
“I started out with them, but now I’m completely on my own. It’s fun
not to have a recipe,” he says. “You have complete control over it –
it’s completely organic.”

Glass says one reason the homebrewing industry has grown in popularity
is because of the “buy local” movement – and an increase in
microbreweries has contributed to that trend.
“There’s been a number of growing craft breweries and the number of
beer they’re producing. That’s the gateway for most people to get into
it. They’ve already been exposed to it,” says Glass.
Pomerville agrees.
“I’ll buy good microbeer. We have excellent craft breweries in the
area; but after you start doing it yourself, you start to have an
appreciation for what goes into it. You appreciate that people put
their heart and soul into it,” he says.
“You’re not going to do any more local than doing it yourself,” adds Glass.
The cost factor isn’t too bad either. Besides time and starter costs,
producing one’s beer is cheaper than purchasing.
According to AHA, basic beginner kits start around $80 and ingredients
cost $25 to $45 per five gallons of beer, depending on style. As far
as time, brewing takes approximately two hours; fermentation, two
weeks; bottling, one hour; and bottle conditioning (or, allowing the
beer to carbonate), two to four weeks.
Is it worth it?
“Absolutely,” says Pomerville.

When it comes to flavor, every homebrewer has his or her favorite.
“My wife likes stouts. We’ve done coffee and vanilla beans. We added a
kiwi to the last one,” says Pomerville.
Largent says he also prefers to make porters—another name for a stout,
which is darker in color—not only because of the flavor, but because
it’s much easier to brew than lagers (which require a cooler storing
“I made a really nice porter one time that my friends really enjoyed.
I usually keep half of my brew, then give the other half to friends
and family, people who I owe favors,” says Largent.
“I’ve been brewing for 17 years,” says Glass, “and I’ve never made the
perfect beer – so I’ve never made the same recipe twice. Every
homebrewer has their own personal taste. You’re personalizing your
Regardless of the flavor, Glass says a good homebrew is the result of
careful attention to detail.
“And clean,” he adds. “Make sure everything is cleaned and sanitized.
It’s the one thing that will help you avoid flaws.”
That – and, of course, practice.
“I’d say I’m getting better,” says Pomerville. “The more I do it…the
more I learn…the more I appreciate it.”

Interested in brewing your own batch of golden amber? Visit and click on the ‘Get Started’ button;
or get their free beginning brewers publica-tion “Zymergy” by clicking
on the logo. You can also stop by Diversions, located at 104 East
Front Street in downtown Traverse City. They are open Monday-Saturday,
10 a.m.-
6 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Call

A glossary of (the funkiest)

Here is a list of terms to throw out there the next time you find
yourself in a brewing conversation. Just use the terms ‘dry hopping’
and ‘hot break’ wisely.

Zymurgy: No, it’s not the name of a garage band. It’s the chemistry of
fermentation with yeasts, particularly the science involved in beer
and wine making.

Sparge: Rinsing excess sugars from the grain after mashing. Example:
“You couldn’t spare some extra sparging? This beer is sweet, but not
in a good way.”

Wort (pronounced wert): Unfermented beer – what you will have after
the mashing and sparging process.

Pitch: Adding yeast to the cooled wort. Example: “He executed a fine pitch.”

Lovibond: Measurement with which malt and beer color is compared
against. The higher the lovibond, the darker the color.

IBU: International Bitterness Unit, how to measure bitterness in beer.
Example: “This porter is totally off the IBU charts.”

Hot Break: the coagulation of proteins during wort boiling.

Dry hopping: Adding hops to finished beer, which provides hop aroma
and flavor but no bitterness.
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