Traverse City Record-Eagle

Life

December 9, 2012

Brewing up a hobby

Beer-making isn't just for breweries anymore

TRAVERSE CITY — John Perreault recently cracked open the first bottles of beer that he brewed himself.

"It's only been in the bottle for a week now, so it's pretty young," Perreault, 28, said of his pale ale. "But it's shaping up well. It tasted pretty good, and I'm expecting it to get even better."

The Traverse City software designer is newly making the jump into home brewing, a hobby that's been on the rise nationally and locally for years now. While the Traverse City area has seen a boom in microbreweries, there's been an equal surge in the home variety.

Joseph Vokes, a Traverse City engineer at Consumers Energy, started with a simple Mr. Beer kit he received as a birthday gift this year. He's now on his fifth batch of pale ale, trying new varieties in each.

"I tried putting some raspberry in the India Pale Ale and like the results of that," said Vokes, 42. "I found you can actually save money creating the expensive beer I love by doing a little bigger batches."

With a nearly infinite combination of grains, hops, yeasts and other ingredients to try, as well as varying techniques for combining them to make the suds you're after, it's a curious mind's dream.

"With any new hobby, the world's the limit," Vokes said. "There's just so many options."

At first glance, the microbrewery and home brewing booms wouldn't seem to go hand in hand. After all, there's plenty of new and unique craft beer from all over the world dotting store shelves these days.

But it's that curiosity — "can I make something like this?" — that has led the microbrew and home brew trends to intermingle and simultaneously see steady upward mobility.

Vokes said he tries out different store-bought beers not only to see what he likes, but also what he doesn't. Then he researches the ingredients of those he doesn't like — especially what types of hops were used — to guide what he puts in his own brews.

Making a batch can take anywhere from two to four hours for the primary cooking aspects, and then there's the wait for it to ferment and be bottled or kegged.

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