So How Does One Make Beer Anyway?

So How Does One Make Beer Anyway?

Brewdoun.com, a website promoting local breweries, went behind the scenes this week to shed some light on the rather active homebrewing scene in Loudoun County. We found two very different homebrew shops—Brew LoCo in Lansdowne Town Center and Kettles and Grains in Leesburg. While we were at it, we discovered how tightly intertwined home brewing is with our locally esteemed breweries.

Kettles & Grains will happily help you understand how to create good beer. It doesn’t matter what level of experience you have. George and Dawn Prusha, owners of the establishment, have broken it down into fun, simple steps.

Step one: Call the location to schedule your appointment. Once you arrive you can browse through their recipe book. George shared that it isn’t uncommon for someone to change their mind once they get a look at the various recipes. You can customize your recipe or even bring in some of your own ingredients.

Step two: George will have his kettles ready and you’ll measure out the necessary grains for your brew. You’ll put the grains in the mill to get them out of their husks.

Step three: Kettles & Grains have a steam system, which allows them to dial in perfect temperatures for your unique craft recipe. You’ll steep your grains inside what is called a grain basket. Afterward, these grains can be recycled into dog treats or bird feed.

Step four: You will add your malts. This is the time to ignore the adage; a watched pot doesn’t boil. You want to watch your boiling brew closely and time it. But don’t worry – George and Dawn are there to help! If you’re making a hoppier recipe, such as an IPA, you’ll be adding hops at this stage. If you’re making a pleasant Christmas ale, this will be the time to add those cinnamon sticks or other necessary ingredients.

Step five: Your beer will be filtered through a neat contraption called a wort valve and into the chiller. The beer will need to ferment, taking anywhere from two to six weeks depending on your recipe.

Step six: You will return to pick up your delicious homebrew and bottle it. The beer will need to sit in a cool, dark location at home for at least a couple more weeks for proper carbonation.

Kettles & Grains have select craft beer, sixtels, and kegs, and growler fills available. They also host events and offer fresh beer on tap. With George and Dawn, home brewing can be a fun corporate outing.  Schedule a teambuilding event, an educational class, or even a playful competition.

The location also has tap takeover with craft beers like Hardywood, coming in December. They will have live music and hot food such as flatbread pizza and BBQ nachos. Check out their Facebook page or website for details.

Brew LoCo is the ingenuity of a coffee shop and homebrew supply store in one. Cathy Frye and Mary Battaglia, sisters and co-owners, created an ideal hotspot with mouthwatering menu items and all our most beloved beverages. There are taps for beer and nitro coffee, house wines, and brunch all weekend.

The establishment offers an inexpensive introductory brewing class for beginners and several workshops from all-grain brewing to making cider or kombucha. Whether it’s someone that knows nothing about home brewing or someone ready to make the jump from extract to all-grain, the shop is a fitting resource. Each class focuses on how do you do this in your home? How much beer do you want to make? What type? Do you have kids underfoot? Dogs underfoot? Homeowners association restrictions in your neighborhood? What’s your budget? Everything is very individualized at Brew LoCo.

Cathy picked up the homebrew bug from her husband, Rob. “It’s a bit like couple’s therapy,” she says, “except with hot liquids.”

They started brewing ten years ago after the kids were out of the house. She’s the head instructor and brewer at Brew LoCo and her passion for the business has only grown. Rob often drops in on the classes as a guest instructor.

It’s apparent to any outside observer that Cathy is a creative solution expert. As a matter of fact, Cathy solved an issue for Matt, founder of Brewdoun.com, when he complained of an oddly sized keg he was unable to use. This is something Cathy, Mary, and the staff at Brew LoCo do every day. Whether it’s using what you have at home to make beer within budget or finding a coffee that’s gentler on your stomach, the shop revolves around this idea.

Homebrewing can be a shared hobby. Perhaps when a couple comes into the shop, one member of the group isn’t quite on board, or the kids are in tow. At Brew LoCo, the person tagging along can curl up with a latte or grab a beer while the home brewer gets supplies or talks with the staff about equipment. Any kids in the group will have a full menu of items to choose from. It’s a place for everyone.

Another creative solution? Although groups can’t bottle what they make that day because it has to ferment for several weeks, Brew LoCo’s class participants bottle the beer made by the previous month’s class. This is a nice advantage because students get the opportunity to experience home brewing start to finish, in one sitting. It also allows time to talk about whether the class participants want to bottle, keg, or do some of both. They will explore why, what it costs in time and money, and what suits their individual situations.

“A lot of people hate to bottle because it’s time-consuming,” says Cathy, “but teens or pre-teens make great cappers and this can turn into a fun family activity.”

Brew LoCo also has a wall of local craft beer, special events, happy hours, weekend brunches, and Friday night live music to keep folks happy. Check their Facebook calendar or website to stay tuned.

Saturday, November 4th was National Learn How To Homebrew Day. Kettles & Grain hosted an event with food, craft beer on tap, and home brewers. Brew LoCo hosted an afternoon of homebrew demos using different techniques and types of equipment.

Many of Loudoun County’s professional brewers got their start in home brewing as well. With a background that yields such playful and enlightening experiences, it’s no wonder they evolve into such talented brewmasters.

Roger Knoell at Barnhouse Brewery in Leesburg brews unpasteurized, unfiltered, European/ German style beers. Calling himself a rule follower as a former beer judge, his rules have not limited his ability to create delicious brews. Roger also brought on board, Matt Tolley, an agronomist (soil scientist) creating brews such as the English nut-brown ale made with sweet potatoes.

With a tiny tasting room out of his basement back in 2012, (think house party with folding lawn chairs) Roger honed his craft. It wasn’t long before he not only had a cult following but the need to open a brewery. Tasting Roger’s beer is certainly a treat but getting behind the scenes is almost magical. Nicknamed “The Beer Guru” by Brewdoun.com, Roger has a system that was engineered from twenty years in home brewing. His steam system gives him the ability to individualize every beer style with a specialized program. What does that even mean?

Certain grains require certain temperatures for certain recipes. With the incredible efficiency of a steam system, Roger can raise or lower temperatures to allow the enzymes converting starches into sugars with exact precision. This helps him to create divine brews such as Good Gourde O’Mighty Pumpkin Ale, with the perfect spice balance and the Dogwood IPA, a bitter West Coast treat.

When you visit Barnhouse, you get the beer, the views, and for those interested, The Beer Guru will have the knowledge to share.

Adrien Widman, founder of Ocelot Brewing Company in Dulles, got involved in home brewing when his love of craft beers became an expensive hobby. For Adrien, it was about creating what wasn’t already there. Like a reader that finally writes the book they long to find on the shelf, his love of beer drove him to begin home brewing. Motives don’t get any purer than that.

One of the things that makes Ocelot an esteemed location is hot new releases every week. Head Brewer, Mike McCarthy, and Brewer, Jack Snider, keep busy, to say the least.

The brewers keep a unique schedule, leaving beers in the fermentation longer, up to four weeks at a time, in order to further manipulate the yeast. The slower procedure really shines through in the end result. Their newest IPA, Inside Out, is quickly becoming a fan favorite with mildly bitter hops and a dry finish. Undamaged Stout is like sipping on a cold mocha brew, a true fall indulgence.

Ocelot also adds Clarex to their brew, which reduces the gluten. This does nothing to the final product’s flavor but it certainly does a lot for how one feels the next day. Many people enjoy drinking Ocelot’s beer and still feeling like a rock star. If you’re gluten intolerant (not celiac) you can add the location as a worthy destination. You’ll definitely thank me later.

In the meantime, stop by Kettles & Grains or Brew LoCo this week and discover a new hobby. If you’re not looking for a new hobby, don’t worry…people like Adrien and Roger have you covered.