More Evidence on the Growth of HomeBrewing!!

 

Pete Fischer, owner of Tru-Arc Welding in Salisbury, unpacks one of the home brew kits he sells at the Northwood Drive location.

Pete Fischer, owner of Tru-Arc Welding in Salisbury, unpacks one of the home brew kits he sells at the Northwood Drive location. /

 — It’s up to you whether to try for a dark smoky porter, crisp hoppy India Pale Ale, or something completely different — like an oud bruin with figs and raspberries.

Home brewing, already an obsession for many, is finding more adherents on the Lower Shore. With several established and emerging breweries around the area, the hobby is attracting experienced beer makers and seeing more who are just discovering the craft.

“It’s picking up,” Pete Fischer said of his business selling starter brewing kits at his Salisbury Tru-Arc welding shop. “I just brew as a hobby and noticed there was nobody else around selling the products for it.”

Preferring to make wine himself, Fischer also brews beer, which he said can be more complex for beginners due to the need to cook it.

“It’s the same basic process though,” he said. “Both go through fermentation.”

While many get started with the type of kits sold by Fischer, Michael Piorunski, who works for Migrant Clinicians Network, said he found much of his equipment on Craigslist.

“I started getting into it because I had an interest in craft beer,” he said. “Then I read quite a few books on beer brewing, went out a beer festival out in Portland, watched some pretty intense demonstrations and tasted some really great beer. So I came back and decided I was going to piece together a home brew operation.”

When making your own beer, the variables can seem overwhelming: the temperatures, ingredients and timing of the process all effect the taste. But, Piorunski said, one thing should come first.

“Cleanliness is key. I think that’s the most important thing people tend to forget,” he said. “Also, simplicity. Extreme beers are fun to talk about and crazy ingredients are great. But if you try to do that at home, sometimes the results aren’t what you would expect.”

By starting with a simple recipe, he said you can establish a foundation.

“Complexity is great and plenty of people make very complex beers,” he said. “The challenge is making it complex but not convoluted. That is the key. When you have a really good French baguette it doesn’t have much but water, yeast, salt and flour. But when you have that balance right, you know it.”

An added benefit of brewing at home, he said, is a greater appreciation for the skill of professional brewers.

“Once you start making beer you begin understanding what goes into it, what brings a specific flavor profile to a beer,” he said. “Things like mash temperature — one of the beer-making processes is creating a mash. You steep grain in hot water to convert starches to sugars — there are variations in that process that brewers can make. The brewer has control over that, and so he has control over flavors. You can influence dryness or maltiness with variations in mash temperature and mash duration.”

Popularized in part by Dogfish Head Brewery and owner Sam Calagione’s Discovery Channel show Brewmasters, unorthodox ingredients from around the world have become a big part of many brewers’ quest for new flavors.

“Crazy ingredients have always been part of home brewing.” Piorunski said. “Lately, I’ve seen more exotic grains and things like that. It’s also just the influence of globalization.”

More often, he said beer allows people to experience familiar ingredients in new ways — like adding pumpkin to the boil.

Another pursuit of home brewers is trying to replicate water from specific locales. By adding certain minerals to water, beers made on the Lower Shore can approximate tastes found in beer destinations worldwide.

While most home brewers stick with equipment similar to the simple kits, Piorunski said some build elaborate systems.

“People really build some crazy setups. Some really try to build brewing systems that replicate what you would find in a commercial brewery,” he said. “There’s two schools of thought on that in the home brewing world.”

Closer to Piorunski’s style is the notion that you’re not going to be able to replicate commercial brewery conditions. He said what’s important is brewing with skill, cleanliness, sanitation and temperature control.

“I’ve got a 15-gallon brew kettle and a pretty serious propane burner,” he said. “I got the kettle and burner off Craigslist half-price. I also have a bunch of fermenters and soda kegs for fermenting and conditioning beer. I got them from various people who just had them sitting in their basement.”

While it can take a bit of money to put your first home brewery together, brewers said beer becomes fairly cheap to make once you’re into it. An added benefit, Piorunski said, is being able to trade your beer for other goods — he trades his for fresh duck eggs and other produce.

 

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