Brew-it-yourself venture bubbles up laughter and lager

Click here to watch me brew beer

Brewing beer at Incredibrew is like being in your high school chemistry class.

First, you’re divided into groups and sent off to your separate stations. Then you measure ingredients into beakers and mix everything together, concocting a murky, odorous liquid. 

Thankfully, the end result of an Incredibrew evening is way better than the explosion that probably occurred at the end of your high school chemistry class. Or at least at the end of mine.

Incredibrew, a do-it-yourself brewery in Nashua, N.H., is New England’s first do-it-yourself brewery and the second oldest do-it-yourself brewery in the United States. For 13 years, Incredibrew has been helping locals, and visitors, brew over 80 types of beer. Major draws include: no need to purchase any of the crazy ingredients, experts on-hand to help, professional brewing equipment and no cleanup.

And while Incredibrew definitely isn’t accessible via the commuter rail, if you find yourself up in the Granite State, take a few hours to stop by and brew some beer.

So in the name of good investigative journalism, I decided to check out Incredibrew. And to sweeten the deal, I also decided to check it out during their Great Pumpkin Brewfest.

Charlie Brown would be proud.

Brewfest is one of Incredibrew’s theme nights, where each brewer walks away with two variety cases instead of the six cases made during a regular brew evening. If you are thinking of visiting Incredibrew, take note of these theme nights because there is a cost difference. My two cases cost $45, while brewing the regular six cases cost around $100. Additionally, you get a variety of different beers instead of just one type. Each case has a dozen 22-oz. bottles.

The evening begins when I meet my group. I’m with my parents (yes, I’m 23 and brewing beer with my parents) along with two women from New Hampshire. Julie Stewart and Pam Sergio are teachers in Manchester and Concord, respectively.

They’ve been brewing here for a few years, usually with a group of friends. When asked why they brew beer, they look at each other and shrug. “Cuz…we love beer?” says Julie. They explain that brewing at Incredibrew is easier than trying to brew at home and it’s a great way to spend an evening with friends.

As the evening progresses, it seems that Julie and Pam hit the nail right on the head. There’s a lot of down time when brewing beer – add some ingredients to the kettle, let them steep. Add some more ingredients to the kettle, let it heat. Really, it’s a perfect opportunity to spend time with friends. Or parents, in my case.

Once all the ingredients are added and everything is heating and steeping, the evening is over. We return two weeks later, after the beer has fermented.

Instead of sitting around and chatting with my parents, I spend my second evening bottling the beer.

Stations are set up around the room and each station has a machine that pumps CO2 and beer into the bottle and also a machine that caps the bottle. It’s quick, easy and provides plenty of opportunity to taste each of the different brews. My personal favorite? Hoppy Holidaze, a red ale loaded with spices.

But that’s just me. You might enjoy Smoky the Bear pale ale or Something Wicked brown ale. With 80 types of beers to brew yourself on site, there’s certainly a flavor for everyone.

Note: Sites like Incredibrew are popping up all around New England as the popularity of home brewing grows. Cody Brewing Company in Danvers is currently renovating and should be open to brewers soon and Barleycorn’s Craft Brew in Natick is already a popular spot for brewers in the metro-Boston area.



 


More interested in wine than beer? Here’s a quick glance at some of the people around the city who are looking to enhance Boston’s wine culture:

Boston Wine School

Jonathon Alsop says he is attracted to the psychedelic language of wine. “The normal world uses normal words, but the world of wine uses crazy, freaky words,” he says. And if you don’t know what any of those crazy words mean, then he encourages you to take a class at the Boston Wine School. Alsop teaches classes that range from Wine 101 to Organic and Biodynamic Wine.

But more than anything else, Alsop encourages his students to have fun and not worry about being a wine aficionado. After all, Alsop always says, “wine goes in your mouth, you’re entitled to an opinion.”

Ken’s Wine Guide

Ken’s Wine Guide is a “comprehensive wine-buying guide.” A site with almost too much information, the Wine Guide has information on the right wine for a wedding, the best books about wine, how to cellar wine, etc. But the most useful aspect of the site is the Practical Party Case, a list of wines rated according to taste and illustrated with relatable descriptions, like “expresses a hint of cherry Kool-Aid.”

Ken explains that his guide is intended to build awareness of wine in the Boston area. “I just want to let people know that there’s better wine than Yellow Tail,” he says, half bemused and half irritated.

The Second Glass

Tyler Balliet was working at Bauer Wine and Spirits on Newbury Street when he had an idea for a wine magazine catered to twentysomethings. Sure, there’s Wine Spectator magazine, but like Balliet says, “even I struggle in understanding what they’re saying.” So, in the true spirit of young entrepreneurship, Balliet started his own magazine – The Second Glass.

Balliet, along with his volunteer staff of friends, say they’re just trying to encourage a new era of wine drinkers to become more informed. “Even just a little bit of information can enhance your wine tasting experience,” he says.

The Second Glass is available in about 90 Boston-area wine stores.