A Homebrew Club to Call Home

Mash831

Mash831 at Alvarado Street Brewery, March 21 (Photo courtesy of Wade Caswell)

If you want to learn more about beer, there’s no better hands-on experience than homebrewing. Spending time with homebrewers is a good way to speed up your education, and few hobbies yield such deliciously rewarding results. A lot of homebrewers start because an uncle, sister, boyfriend was already brewing. But what about homebrew clubs? How do you find one, especially the right one for you?

The internet is a good place to begin, although for the Monterey Peninsula (California) where I live, not a lot pops up. Friends and word of mouth are your next bet. When I started brewing, the husband of an acquaintance invited me to a meeting of his club, the Redwood Coast Brewers Association. Unsure what to expect, I drove 40 miles to a home in Santa Cruz where I was the only female in a group of some twenty men. What intimidated me, though, was that most of these guys had been brewing for at least two decades. They came lugging far-out ciders, crazy kölsches, kegged stouts and lagers packed in iced down fermenter buckets. (For non-homebrewers, all of those are well beyond the beginner level.) These were all-grain brewers who had invested in awesome equipment and elaborate systems over the years. (Check out the photos on their website!) Some were award-winning veterans of homebrew competitions. The men were nice. Their brews were great. But I was way out of my league.

At the local homebrew supply store, the owner mentioned MASH831 (Monterey and Salinas area Homebrewers + the local area code), a group that had been unable to meet for the last year, but members were planning to start up again in 2015. In January, MASH831 met at a local craft beer house/bar, Post No Bills, which held a before-hours tasting for the homebrew club. This group was a considerably younger and included a few women. Some participants were relatively new to the area and/or to homebrewing. The group as a whole didn’t have the years of bonding, or accumulated experience that the Santa Cruz guys did, pluses for me. And, it was a ten-minute drive from home.

Yeast Project Participants Luke, Paul, Leslie and José

Yeast Project Participants Luke, Paul, Leslie and José

When it came time for the February meeting, my homebrewed IPA and I were ready to roll. Instead, Mother Nature rolled in the storm clouds and rained out the open-air parade of brews. But word was getting around that MASH831 was back. Part of the buzz involved the Yeast Tasting Project scheduled for March. Participants would use the same recipe but different yeasts. This took some organization and planning, most of it handled by Duane, the owner of Bottoms Up (that local homebrew store). On Saturday, March 21, Alvarado Street Brewery, in Monterey opened its doors early just for MASH831. The unofficial count was 30 beers and 60 beer enthusiasts at this amazing event. I felt like I presented a pretty decent blond ale fermented with White Labs California V yeast, and I heard good things from others.

The next big MASH831 event to plan and brew for is the Spring Festival and Competition on May 16. Whether I can brew something worth presenting is the question. . .

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