The Cabarrus Homebrewers Society (CABREW) celebrated National Learn How to Homebrew Day on Nov. 5 by hosting a free public brew session in Concord.
The holiday was created by the American Homebrewers Association.
CABREW's beer-brewing session was from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Lil Robert's Place on Union Street, where the group holds monthly meetings.
Ford Craven, 33, co-founder of CABREW, and member Luke Waterson, 29, spent the afternoon answering questions, offering samples of their homebrews and creating a clone brew of Sierra Nevada's Celebration, an American IPA released annually for Christmas. They plan to serve the Celebration clone to members at CABREW's Christmas party.
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CABREW's public brew session included a raffle to win a brew kit worth $140 from Alternative Beverage on South Boulevard in Charlotte, where many CABREW members get their supplies. (A second Alternative Beverage is located in Belmont.)
Alternative Beverage also provided the ingredients for the day's brew in celebration of Learn to Homebrew Day.
Co-founders Craven and Chip Clark started the Cabarrus society about two years ago after both received homebrewing kits as Christmas gifts. They joined Charlotte's Carolina BrewMasters but decided also to found a local club to avoid piling up miles traveling to meetings.
CABREW now has 25 dues-paying members and several others who drop in on meetings occasionally.
"Our mentality is that we're not trying to force anything or make money," Craven said. "It's strictly a club for people to learn about homebrew and beer appreciation, a place where people can talk the talk and learn to talk the talk."
Craven's best advice to anyone who brews at home or wants to?
"Join the homebrew club," he said. "My motto is that you learn by experience."
He noted that members of the club often encounter similar problems in the brewing process, so they can get advice from others who have already found solutions.
Craven is no stranger to learning from brewing experience. His favorite beer he ever brewed, he said, actually resulted from a mistake.
In an attempt to make a "raisin saison," Craven thought he had done something wrong and decided to dump it out. He left it sitting for a while before getting around to disposing of it.
During that time, he said, "It re-fermented and turned into this beautiful French farmhouse ale."
Craven also advises beginners to start with learning to brew the classic styles of beer before trying to add all sorts of interesting flavors. His early brews involved lots of unique ingredients, until he decided he needed to master the basics first. He calls it a matter of "learning to crawl before learning to walk."
Waterson's advice to homebrewers is to do a lot of reading about the process on the Internet brewing forums and websites. He also said the cleanliness and sanitation of equipment is a key to successful brewing, as any sort of infection can ruin the brew and instill off flavors.
Another fun aspect of homebrewing is using the "spent grain" to make things like bread, cookies and dog treats. "Spent grain" is the grain left over after it's soaked in hot water to create wort, or young beer. Craven has used his spent grain to make dog treats to pass out while delivering meals for Meals on Wheels.
The Cabarrus Homebrewers Society meets the second Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at Lil Robert's Place in Concord. For more information, visit www.cabrew.org.