Every year since I can remember—at least, after I was old enough to drink legally—I’ve received the gift of beer: Big wonderful boxes full of clinking bottles all containing beers from around the world. It’s the kind of gift that says, “Hey, you like to drink, don’t ya?”
Here’s another idea: Make ’em work for it.
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
The average Joe Budweiser probably couldn’t point out a hop in a lineup. And if Putt-Putt the educational car ever taught me anything (Google it), it’s that you can teach anyone anything if you make it fun … or if you say there’s going to be beer.
Even the novice beer aficionado can turn yeast into a sweet, sweet home brew with a little help. A good place to start locally is Central Coast Brewing where you can be “Brewmaster for a Day.”
Aaron Swink, Central Coast Brewing’s actual brewmaster—technically the head brewer—said the process is easy: Send your amateur brewer in for a few hours. He or she will first choose a favorite type of beer (most start with the easy brews like pales, porters, stouts, and ambers, Swink said). Next they’ll grind the grains, add the hops, and have a hand in every part of the process all the way to pitching the yeast. Then they’ll ease back and let Mother Nature work her magic.
“And we will take care of the fermentation, which takes about three weeks,” Swink said.
Once the yeast’s done its job, it’s time to work again. The final steps in the process are bottling, labeling, and capping. The whole rigmorale will set you back $175 for a batch of beer and $100 for the bottles, which brings the grand total to about $285 after tax, Swink said. But you’ll walk out with 72 22-ounce bottles.
After some much belabored number crunching, New Times figured this option will run you about 18 cents per ounce. And after even more belabored number crunching, our collective brainpower figured a six-pack of decent beer from the corner market will probably run you about 14 cents per ounce. That’s just four cents per ounce difference between store-bought beer with a bow and the gift of creation—minus the manpower required to wrap and transport $285 worth of bottles.
It doesn’t have to be a solo effort; groups of all sizes can partake at no additional charge.
“Usually people will kind of make a party out of the bottling,” Swink said. “We do allow people to sample beers … while they’re here.”
Some people have made return trips. A return brewer who saves the bottles from their first session only has to pay the $175, Swink said.
Guests are also allowed to create their own custom labels. Depending on how much design work goes into the label, the most you should expect to pay is about $15 extra. Central Coast Brewing keeps a wall of labels from previous parties. Asked about the more memorable labels, Swink laughed: “If you look at the wall, it seems that the two big things are mustaches and boobs.”
Central Coast Brewing is now selling gift cards for its home-brewing program, which takes place on Saturdays. Reservations should be made a week or two in advance, Swink said.
And if your brewers want to take the whole operation back home, you can send them—as Central Coast Brewing does—to Doc’s Cellar, which offers ingredients, equipment, and supplies for home brewers and winemakers.
Homebrewtalk.com’s wiki page lists Doc’s Cellar as one of about a dozen locations to pick up home brewing equipment in California. Also listed is the Vintner Vault in Paso Robles, which specializes in winemaking supplies, but provides some components for beer.
And to quote a wise man I know, who was quoting another wise man, “A wise man once said: ‘This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption … beer!’”
News Editor Colin Rigley imbibes deeply of the season. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.