Something’s Brewing – and it Ain’t No Storm

Picture: Adam Mathews, co-owner of Backyard Home Brewers and Education Center in Humble, offers a wide range of products needed to brew home-made beer.

Written by STEFANIE THOMAS foryourhoustonnews.com

Adam Mathews and Jon Denman aren’t giving up their day jobs just yet. They’re not interested in high-pressure sales tactics, they say, or making fortunes. They just want to share their passion: making beer.

A few days ago, with the incorporation of Backyard Home Brewers and Education Center, Humble became home to a home-brewing supply shop, with all its untapped potential.

At Backyard Home Brewers and Education Center in Humble, a couch is waiting in the corner for anyone who wants to plop down for a chat or a taste of brew. The dress code is casual. Strangers are greeted like old buddies – or maybe Mathews and Denman just never met a stranger. The scent of hops, barley and malt lingers like an olfactory premonition. Buckets of more than 30 different kinds of grains are stacked to the ceiling. Flasks and packets and tubes of yeast are neatly organized in a cooler in the back of the store. Kegs loom on the top shelves.

“Jon and I’ve been home-brewing for quite a while,” said Mathews, a Medicare consultant employed by a major insurance company who lives in Kingwood. “Last summer we went camping and we brought some homebrew out there with us, and we decided to open a homebrew store. We plotted out all kinds of ideas.”

The two friends say they depleted their savings to follow their dream of providing area home-brewing enthusiasts with quality products, a place to share the successes of their endeavors, bringing newcomers into the fold, and delivering support through education.

“As a home-brewer, you are a crafter. The possibilities are endless,” said Denman, who does pre-press work for a design company and lives in Pearland. “Home-brewing is about taking pride in what you make, and sharing it with friends and family. The best thing to get people together is beer.”

Denman and Mathews wrinkle their noses at the typical grocery store fare of Budweiser, Miller and Coors. Their passion is to experiment and create unique and flavorful brews, and to get others educated in the intricacies of making beer. It’s a process, they say, that’s not nearly as complicated as it seems.

“Homebrew is very clean. You can make beer exactly the way you want it to taste,” Jon explained. “There are only four main ingredients you will use – water, malt, hops and yeast. You won’t use any chemicals. When you look at any major brewery, they use ingredients you cannot even pronounce, and they add those to your beer. We’re getting back to a clean product.”

From light lagers to the heavier ales, golden pilsners to darker ports, Backyard Home Brewers offers any and all ingredients needed to create a palette of colors, complexities and personalized flavors of beer imaginable. Customers are invited, encouraged even, to experiment with citrus and chocolate undertones, or a dab of vanilla and honey to add depth to their very personal brew, never to be duplicated.

SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE

Because Mathews and Denman only sell the ingredients to make beer, but don’t actually sell alcohol, the business is not required to have a liquor license, they say. There’s a tap in the corner of the store where local home-brewers can offer a sip of their product for sampling, but a small taste of those brews is free.

And honest feedback is a must.

“If someone from the homebrew community wants honest opinions – outside of family and friends – on how good his brew really is, he can leave a sample here on tap and people can check it out,” Mathews said. “People can then voice their opinion anonymously on the [dry-erase] board.”

The initial investment to become a home-brewer usually comes to less than $200. Backyard Home Brewers offers equipment kits that include all but the necessary 5-gallon stainless steel pot- at home already in most households – for $115. Add another $25 or so in grains and other ingredients to produce the first batch.

“Depending on the style of brewing and ingredients you want to use, that’s about $25 to make five gallons of beer, which equals about roughly 55 bottles, give or take,” Mathews said. “Or, it fills up a 5-gallon keg. You get more than eight six-packs for that price.”

In an effort to offset cost to customers and operate an environmentally friendly business, Denman and Mathews launched a program to reuse and recycle beer bottles. Zachary’s Café in Kingwood, for example, donates used bottles, which are then cleaned and sanitized and available for free to anyone who needs them.

“When one customer is done with the bottles, hopefully he’ll bring them back and then the next person can grab them. The bottles have to be certain types – they can’t be twist; they have to be pop-offs,” Mathews said. “We also have a used equipment board so people can sell what they no longer need. We’re not involved in the sale; we’re just offering an outlet for people to sell and trade.”

OUT CLUBBIN’

To further help beginners get started and seasoned home-brewers advance in their techniques, Backyard Home Brewers teamed up with the newly formed Rogue Brewers Coalition, an Humble-based social group that was spawned by the launch of the business.

“We wanted to have a club where people who like to make their own beer can meet up. We have monthly meetings and periodic workshops,” said Chad Twogood, of Humble, vice president of Rogue Brewers Coalition. “We sample each other’s beer and talk about how we made it. We do workshops to educate people on how to make good beer. Hopefully, in the future, we can take our club to competitions among home brewing clubs.”

Twogood said he’s been brewing his own beer for about three years as a hobby. Backyard Home Brewers helped him find a community of like-minded enthusiasts closer to home.

“I love this place. Before, I had to go to Spring or downtown and it would take me a day just to get ready to brew a batch of beer. Now I’m five minutes away,” he said. “They have everything that anyone from beginner to advanced home-brewer could want.”

Denman said that home-brewing beer is not exclusively a man’s hobby. In a recent class of about 20 participants, he said, four or five were women. The goal of the classes, he stressed, is not to sell products but to share a fun experience and to educate.

“Eighty percent of the people who attend a class don’t brew and probably don’t have any intention to, but it’s something interesting to do on a Saturday,” he said. “You learn something new.”

Mathews said Backyard Home Brewers enjoys support from the community, and participation – and business – has exceeded expectations. The duo has its hands full just keeping the shelves stocked.

“So far we’ve had no detractors at all. We’re not teaching alcoholism. We’re not taking people away from their families, going out getting drunk. What we teach saves you money and it’s a social thing. We don’t get wild,” he said. “The idea is to grow this company at its own pace – without pushing. Our mortgages are not tied to this place. We’re blown away by how fast this has taken off, but we’re not really here to make a living. It’s a passion.”

For more information about Backyard Home Brewers, go to www.backyardhomebrewers.com.

To learn more about upcoming events by the Rogue Brewers Coalition, go to www.roguebrewers.com.