Cabrew, Lenny Boy create organic beer made from ingredients grown in Cabarrus County

The Cabarrus Homebrewers Society on Jan. 17 released its first commercially available beer with help from Charlotte-based Lenny Boy Brewing Co.

About 100 people visited the all-organic brewery to sample 10 beers made using organic hops grown at the Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm in Concord. The release event also served as a fundraiser for the farm.

In spring 2013, the Cabarrus Homebrewers Society planted 30 organic rhizomes, or root cuttings, to create a local, organic source of hops for homebrewers. Members dubbed the effort the Cabrew Hops Project.

That year, members of the homebrewers club – known as Cabrew for short – harvested about 9 pounds of wet (fresh) Cascade hops and 14 pounds of wet Nugget hops. Society members produced several beers using the locally grown hops.

In 2014, Cabrew members added an additional Cascade hop variety and an experimental Chinook hop. The 2014 harvest produced about 5 pounds of dry hops, which were given to Lenny Boy Brewing Co. to create the beginnings of the all-organic beer.

Society members took home half the batch brewed at Lenny Boy in late November to experiment with types of yeasts and other ingredients. The other half was made into two beers at Lenny Boy.

Ford Craven founded the Cabarrus Homebrewers Society in 2011 and has been brewing his own beer for about five years.

“We wanted to celebrate the hop harvest and, at the same time, since we are such a young club, we wanted to create some sort of event that we could host on an annual basis,” Craven said. “This might be something that happens every year to raise awareness for the incubator farm.”

Ten beers were made from initial batch. Club members then added different yeasts to create new flavors.

The main ingredients in beer are malt, hops, water and yeast.

“Yeast is the major ingredient that affects the character and flavor of the beer,” Craven said. “Yeast, once called ‘God is good,’ is the soul of the beer. It’s what eats the sugar and turns it into alcohol.”

Charlotte native John Watkins, 27, works as the head brewer at Lenny Boy Brewing Co. He has been brewing beer for about seven years.

“It’s good for (Cabrew) because they get to brag about a beer they made from hops they grew, so it’s a pretty cool partnership,” Watkins said.

Charlotte native Townes Mozer, 27, is the owner of Lenny Boy. He’s been brewing for about seven years.

His 4,900-square-foot brewery makes organic kombucha – a fermented tea high in B vitamins and antioxidants – as well as mead and traditional beer.

The effort promotes a local farm and a local craft, Mozer said.

“If we can get the word out more about local farms – especially the organic ones – hopefully it will inspire others to partner with local farms,” Mozer said.

Lenny Boy produces about 4,000 gallons of kombucha and 2,000 gallons of beer per month.

“These types of events help change and shape the culture of Charlotte,” Mozer said.

Bill Hartman, 56, of Huntersville describes himself as a beginning brewer who recently started the hobby again. He’s not a member of a homebrewers club but said the release event inspired him to find and join one.

“I came here to sample the beers because they’re growing their own hops in Cabarrus County now, and I find that very interesting,” Hartman said.

“I think it’s exciting they’ve been able to do this on the East Coast, because they’ve been very successful in the Northwest with it,” he said. “… I think they’ve done a great job, and I hope to eventually use some of their hops in my process. I found all the beers I tried to be very drinkable.”

Ron Geiger, 57, a member of the Carolina Brewmasters, has been brewing his own beer since 2005.

“This is exceptionally encouraging, because here, in just two years, we have gone from rhizome to hops production, and I’m very, very pleased with the product,” Geiger said.

“This is important because is sets forth a ground that we can grow our own hops here, and this is very encouraging for the entire brew community.”