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Image courtesy of Mastry’s Brewing Co. / Left: Matt Dahm Right: Micheil McElvey

What It Takes To Start A Brewery

Around the time that you’re transitioning from that college lifestyle to a more, well, grown up life, you’ll start to notice big changes in one particular area—your taste preferences in beer. Those Keystone Lights just aren’t fitting the bill anymore and you like saying things like, “Do you have anything barrel-aged on draft?” Or, “Mm, I can really detect the tannins in this one.”  Beer snob or not, many beer drinkers have thought about what it’d be like to start a brewery. According to Micheil McElvey, assistant brewer at Mastry’s Brewing Co., it’s not impossible to start a brewery, so long as you have passion and talk to the right people. Actually brewing beer is just one part of what it takes to start a brewery.

Mastry’s is a brewpub connected to CD Roma Restaurant in St. Petersburg, Florida, but it’s not beachy. The family-owned restaurant and brewery keep their rich heritage in everything from the food to the beer to the style and their business mission. The Mastry family name comes from a Belize and Lebanese background which inspired flavors in their most unique brew, the Roma Ale Honey Basil Ale. “The Honey Basil Ale put us on the map,” said Micheil. Another favorite is the Rainy Season Honeydew Habanero Saison, inspired by Florida’s fickle weather.

In Florida, they say if you don’t like the weather wait ten minutes it’ll change. We here at Mastry’s like to think that if you’re waiting for the rain to stop, you might as well enjoy a great beer.

Matt Dahm, the brew master, founder and owner, is a third generation Mastry who first came up with the idea to start a brewery in 2014 in Asheville, North Carolina. The craft beer community’s passion is infectious in Asheville, as it is in places like Fort Collins, Colorado or Birmingham, Alabama where breweries are around every corner. Matt was determined to start a brewery and when approached, Micheil quit everything and decided to help Matt.

The team had dabbled in home brewing previously, but to many people’s surprise it’s not a prerequisite to start a brewery. Micheil is currently enrolled in the University of South Florida’s Brewing Arts Program where he’s studying the science, equipment, chemistry, marketing and operations that go into starting a brewery. While Micheil would suggest anyone interested in the brewing business to go through the same kind of educational experience, he also says, “If you can make oatmeal you can make beer.” Because brewing beer is simply following a recipe.

If you really want to start a brewery, get ready to devote eight plus hours to this “really expensive hobby.”

It’s an eight hour day no matter the quantity of beer or size of your brewery.

Micheil explains that part of the time commitment is simply to keep the brewery highly sanitized. A chemical provider must inspect the building and brewery space in order to inform you on the kind of sanitation process you’ll be required to carry out consistently.

If a brewery is unclean it shuts down.

Matt and Micheil 06

Image courtesy of Mastry’s Brewing Co. / Left: Micheil McElvey Right: Matt Dahm

What began as a brewpub is about to grow into a stand-alone brewery. Mastry’s will open a new location in St. Petersburg in June. They’ve got the property and their license, and they’re turning an old tire shop into a modern, clean brewery. The team will have to add new drains and practically rip up the space to make sure it’s squeaky clean and congruent with their style—aka not a beach town tiki bar. Mastry’s will keep Florida locals happy with an environment that feels like home, while also modernizing the space to “elevate the way people see and experience craft beer.”

So no matter how you start a brewery—whether a brewpub, micro brewing, or even home brewing, you just have to get started. Micheil said the most rewarding part of his brewing journey is to see the business mature and improve so significantly. How did they grow so quickly?

Breweries like to help people out. Just get out there and talk to people.

If you want to start a brewery, it’s as simple as that. Find your local breweries and learn their stories. You’ll find it’s a lot less intimidating than it seems to start a brewery, and…we could all use more beer.

Be sure to keep up with Mastry’s on Facebook for events and updates!

Beer

Everything you need to brew your own beer

Beer. Men have been making it for thousands of years. In fact, it was considered so important that the daily wages of the men who built the pyramids included a healthy portion of it.

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Beer
Beer

Image:Wikimedia Commons

Beer. Men have been making it for thousands of years. In fact, it was considered so important that the daily wages of the men who built the pyramids included a healthy portion of it. In the days before safe drinking water, brewing beer was vital and every town had a local brewer. But these days, we’re content to outsource that responsibility to faceless corporations. And it’s hard to argue that the product hasn’t suffered as a result.

But what if you could brew your own beer?

Well, learning how to brew your own beer is actually not as hard as it might sound. And there are a lot of reasons you might want to do it:

  • You can use higher quality ingredients.
  • You can experiment to find the best tasting beer.
  • You can develop a delicious brew and name it after yourself.

So if that sounds like something you would be into, let’s break down how it’s done. First, you basically have two options, you can buy a professional kit or you can purchase the ingredients separately and do it yourself.

Purchasing a kit is probably the best option for a first-time brewer as it takes a lot of the hassle out of the process and comes with instructions along with a set of basic equipment. You can pick up a wide variety of basic kits here for around fifty bucks. The basic ingredients are going to be hops, a grain mash, and yeast.

Now before you do anything with those get your equipment together. You’re going to need a boiling pot big enough to hold a few gallons of water, a kitchen strainer, a big funnel, and a separate container for the fermenting process with vents to let gas escape.

So once you have all that, the first step is to choose a recipe. Do you want your beer to be a lager, a stout, or an ale? What sort of alcohol by volume percentage are you aiming for?

It’s really up to you. If you’re interested in learning about what the differences between all these different kinds of beer are, you can become a veritable beer expert in five minutes by reading this. Once you do decide, you need a recipe to follow. Here’s a site with hundreds of different recipes to follow.

The process of making great homebrew is not that difficult. The first thing to do is crush the grain you’re using into a rough powder. When making your beer, you want a consistency that’s closer to granola than flour. An easy way to do this is by placing the grain in a bag and working it over with a rolling pin for a few minutes.

Step two is to place the grain in a strainer and place it in water for 30 minutes at 150 degrees. This process extracts the flavor from the grain. This is the step that gives your beer much of its taste.

Next, bring the mixture to a boil. Once you reach a stable boil add your hops and any other specialty ingredients. This is the step that gives your beer much of its taste. Let the pot boil for about an hour and be careful not to let it boil it over or you’ll have a giant mess to clean up.

Once the mixture (which is called “wort” at this point) cools off, transfer it with a funnel into the fermentation container. From this point on, make sure that anything the wort comes in contact with is carefully sanitized. Any bacteria that gets into the wort can fester over the fermenting process and ruin your beer or even be dangerous.

Careful about what kind of container you use, the gasses produced during the process of fermenting the beer expand and can even make it explode. An airlock is an attachment that allows gas to escape without letting bacteria into the container.

Store the container somewhere dark and cold for about 7 days. At this point, the beer will drinkable, but flat. The final step is to “prime” the beer, which requires that you boil 3/8 cup of sugar in 1 cup of water for about five minutes. Then transfer it into a sanitized container along with your beer.

Now all that’s left is putting the beer into bottles and slapping on a label.

Brewing your own beer is part art and part science. Trying to combine ingredients in the perfect way to make a great tasting beer gives you a hobby that uses both sides of your brain at once. It’s the sort of thing that can easily become a life-long passion.

So if you enjoy drinking beer ( and who doesn’t), why not try your hand at making it, and brew your own beer.

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Beer

Oktoberfest: What it is, and what beers to drink

It’s almost time for Oktoberfest! Wooo! It’s that thing… where Australians go to Germany to drink tons of beer or something?

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Fisher Photostudio / Shutterstock

Fisher Photostudio / Shutterstock

It’s time for Oktoberfest! Wooo! It’s that thing… where Australians go to Germany to drink tons of beer or something?

That’s actually not far off the mark. This year Oktoberfest will take place from September 17 – October 3, with over five million expected attendees. A mini Australian embassy will be set-up in Munich, and around 6 millions liters of beer will be drunk. Yes, people will go to drink their faces off, but there are also live bands, parades, carnival rides, games, and Bavarian food.

The formal beginning of Oktoberfest was the October wedding of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen in 1810, when royalty decided that everyone could come to their reception at Theresienwiese, the local fair ground where Oktoberfest is still held, and party by watching horse races. No beer was provided. (That’d be a helluva open bar bill.) However, a similar festival had been going on hundreds of years prior: the yearly “drink up all this beer so we can make more” event.

Before living in the future with refrigeration and what not, beer was brewed with a higher alcohol content and in the early spring to keep from spoiling. This beer was kept in cold storage, like caves or cellars, in a process known as lagering. People would drink from those casks until around October, after the fall harvest, and then they needed to hurry up and drink the rest of that beer to reuse the casks. The last of that beer was probably especially good as the hops mellowed and a malty flavor profile developed, typical of Märzen or Oktoberfest beers.

That being said, the amber, toasty Oktoberfest beer is not the majority of beer served. There are more popular lager styles like Helles that dominate the Oktoberfest beer tents anymore. Arguably, this is because Oktoberfest has gone from an intensely Bavarian festival to a Bavarian festival that benefits from international consumption, hence the temporary Australian embassy. When you think of beers that make it internationally – Fosters, Sapporo, Heineken, Stella Artois – these are beers that are light, crisp, and pale.

So what makes an Oktoberfest beer? After a certain point, you can just say that whatever is served at Oktoberfest is Oktoberfest beer, whether it’s crisp and gold or red and malty. But for those breweries that aren’t the six from Munich that serve the festival, there are some aspects to consider.

First of all, the traditional Märzen or Oktoberfest are usually aged for a few weeks and have an amber color and a full malty flavor. (It doesn’t make financial sense to lager them for six months any more.) Also, the craft beer boom in the U.S. means that we think of beer as something that can be made with pumpkin spice, fruit, coriander, whatever. There’s nothing wrong with that, but this is not the case for Bavaria. There’s a law in place since 1516 called Reinheitsgebot, a beer purity law, that states in order for something to be called beer it must only be brewed with water, barely, and hops. So if you buy something labeled Oktoberfest beer and it’s made with cinnamon and pumpkin, you’ve been lied to. However, if you’re buying an Oktoberfest beer as opposed to other medium-bodied lagers, to an extent you are buying it for the label and the idea of a big, happy fall festival.

Here are some beers you can try to get in the spirit:

Spaten Oktoberfest Ur-Mätzen – From one of the Munich breweries that serves Oktoberfest. It doesn’t get much more authentic than this stateside.

Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen – From Bavarian brewery just outside Munich, this is a smooth, elegant beer with a frothy head.

Great Lakes Oktoberfest – An excellent example of an Oktoberfest-style beer, it’s a lighter medium-bodied lager with rich malt notes with a good balance between flavor and drinkability.

Sam Adams Octoberfest – This beer is a satisfying Oktoberfest interpretation with complexity and touches of sweetness. I really like it even though there’s a made-up word on the label.

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How to Choose a Beer Subscription

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If you could get to choose just one alcoholic beverage you can drink for the rest of your life, what drink would it be? A lot of men would choose beer and you may be one of them. Beer is amazing because you can drink it when you just want to chill out on a Sunday or when you are sharing some stories with your loved ones. It can help loosen tongues a bit but still allow you to remember the details about the event at the same time. Tasting various, exquisite beers can be a privilege for you if you have a beer subscription to a beer club.

You can always purchase beer from the nearby store. In fact, you can pick any beer that you want but if you are a true beer enthusiast, you would like to taste different types of beer. You can choose among beers that are not too popular and may not even be well-known in various parts of the world. Expect that the beers are produced in limited numbers and cannot be found in most stores.

If you are already convinced that you should have a beer subscription to a beer club, you need to realize that the number of beer clubs has increased steadily over the past years. If before, you can only find a few when you go online, you are guaranteed to find a lot if you try searching for a beer club right now. You need to find a beer club that has offerings that suit your taste.

What You Can Expect from Beer Clubs

Aside from the numerous amounts of beer clubs that you have to check one by one, it can be a challenge for you to find one that has selections that cater to your taste. Beer clubs have offerings for different people. If you suspect that what a beer club offers does not suit you, then you can search for another beer club. Expect the following differences:

  • Some beer clubs can only offer domestic beers that cannot be found at local stores while some beer clubs offer international types of beer.
  • There are some beer clubs that only get their beer from small breweries and beer makers. This means getting the same type of beer can be harder.
  • It will depend on the subscription that you choose as to how many beers you are going to receive on every shipment. This will also depend on the beer club.

With all of the things that you have learned so far about getting a beer subscription, here are some tips that can help you so you can choose the best beer club to join.

  1. Decide on the type of beer club that you want. If you want to support domestic beer, then search for beer clubs that only offer this type of beer. If you are willing to taste more exotic types of beer, go ahead and choose a beer club that has an international subscription.
  2. You may want to try low-end beer clubs first if you do not know what to expect; then switch to higher-end beer clubs the more that you become attuned to the things you can expect from beer clubs in general.
  3. There may be different packages available. Some beer clubs have various packages wherein you can choose the number of beers that you are going to receive  on every shipment. Some can ship up to 12 small bottles while others would only provide 2 but these 2 bottles will be really big. You can enjoy great beer for a longer period of time as you will be receiving something valuable for sure.
  4. The variety of beers that are being offered will also play a huge factor in your decision making. Some may provide 12 bottles but of the same type of beer while others would give 12 but there are 4 of each flavor available. If you want more variety, then choose one that will provide your preference.
  5. Consider if the beer club you are going to choose allows you to send gifts to your friends and colleagues. A lot of beer clubs are more than willing to ship your beer to a person you would like to give a gift to. This can help their business because the receiver may like the beer so much that he will subscribe too.

Are you completely convinced of getting a beer subscription soon? As long as you make the right choice, you have nothing to worry about.

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