Students brew up good times
December 6, 2009 6:58 PM
With their pockets low on cash, many college students are finding it difficult to afford a night on the town. And so, some are deciding to make their own fun--with homemade beer.
"It's so much cheaper than anything else," SF State student and home brewer Russ Horvath said.
Every two to three weeks, Horvath and his housemates brew a large batch of beer. And they're not alone. Home brewing culture has been slowly growing all over the bay area. Stores like San Francisco Brewcraft on Clement Street, assists the individual brewer by offering classes and equipment, whereas Brewmaster in San Leandro caters to the more experienced brewers who sell their product restaurants and bars.
Brewmaster employee and fellow brewer Mike McCullough notices that there has been a significant rise in the interest in homemade beer among college students. Although Brewmaster itself supplies large shipments of brewing equipment to places like San Francisco Brewcraft, curious individuals still come round to get information on how to make their own beer. Sometimes, the Brewmaster staff have brewing parties behind the shop, where they drink the beer they made weeks before while cooking another batch.
McCullough himself first got into home brewing when he lived in Texas. As an 18-year-old, McCullough figured if he couldn't legally drink beer, he might as well make it. But not all of his brewing creations turned out as he hoped. Sometimes, McCullough would add too much malt syrup--"the backbone of any good beer" as he calls it--the end result resembling a thick maple syrup rather than an IPA.
But he got the hang of it after a while and eventually went on to teach others how to craft their own special brews. "You can be very creative with your ingredients," McCullough explains. "Around the holidays, you can add honey and cinnamon for a more Christmas feeling. You can make the grains that you steep in the water into beer-flavored cookies. There's no end to the possibilities."
He even recalls one man who mixes red wine in with his beer, naming it a "Red and White." Now, McCullough studies poetry at SF State, and brews in his spare time.
As home brewing's popularity grows, there are many resources to assist the novice brewer. Several blogs and websites devote their entire content to the steps of creating a nice Pale Ale or a Bavarian Wheat. Every Monday night, Brewcraft hosts a workshop where people can come to learn the skills. But classes can be difficult since brews require several weeks to ferment before they can be bottled.
However, beer making can contribute to one's intellect as well as one's intoxication level. Horvath originally got into home brewing to learn the science behind the process. And McCullough admits his knowledge of physics has grown dramatically since he began brewing.
Most of all, brewing seems to be a good answer to the need for lost-cost fun. "We brew in short bursts," Horvath said, "but it's always nice to do with friends."
Sierra Nevada Pale Clone
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