Mmmmm … beer. An icy cold pint hits the spot on a warm fall day like nothing else. Benjamin Franklin is rumored to have said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Can I get an Amen?! Most of us make a quick jaunt to the liquor store or head to our favorite pub when we want to indulge. But many curious souls are learning to brew their own, experimenting in the comfort of their own kitchens with different varieties of grains, hops, and fruit.
We in the Northland are catching on to this fun, delicious, friend-attracting hobby. With the savvy advice and vast array of supplies and ingredients offered by Duluth Homebrew Supply, Duluthians can now homebrew with the best of ‘em.
DULUTH HOMEBREW SUPPLY
Nestled into the lower level of the Fitger’s complex, you will find Duluth Homebrew Supply (DHS). A necessary pilgrimage for any home brewer worth his or her salt, the shop offers a large grid of self-serve grains, supplies galore, and a small kitchen where they offer classes. Its thick, natural stone walls and trendy green logo give the business a smart, modern vibe.
Established in 2015 by siblings Katie Hagglund and Kelly Katoski, DHS fills a niche that was sorely lacking in Duluth. “It’s going well so far,” Katoski shares. “A lot of people are really happy that we’re here.”
In addition to selling supplies for making your own beer, DHS offers a community of sorts for the local home brewer. The website offers helpful articles, discussion forums, and the ability to join their “Brew Club,” where you can earn a discount on products. And, if you’re a true blue do-it-yourselfer, DHS also sells supplies for making your own soda, cider, mead, Kombucha, wine, and cheese.
INTRO TO BREWING
Perhaps best of all, DHS offers a course titled “Intro to Brewing.” The website states the course teaches “The process from beginning to end: malt extract brewing, siphoning, bottling, and more, for $15 per person.”
In “just another day at the office” in my career as a freelance writer, I was fortunate enough to take the course with a few of my nearest and dearest. Rather than taking you step-by-step through the actual brewing process, however, I will summarize some highlights for you here. Thus, if you are serious about learning to brew your own, I highly recommend you leave it to the experts, and take the course yourself.
Held in a space that could pass as a TV kitchen, Katoski stands at the front of the room and presents the full process of brewing a batch of beer, from start to finish. Students sit at tables, observing as Katoski works the stove. You can either watch the teacher, or view a large-screen TV directly to his right, which monitors Katoski’s actions via a live webcam feed. There is also a helpful slide show accompanying the demonstration.
The kitchen was hot. Apparently Fitger’s A/C system is pretty slow, so please be warned that you will want to dress in layers in case you get warm.
But on the bright side, as part of the course, you and your table get to share two pints of icy cold beer throughout the two and a half hour process. We sampled two local delights: the Bent Paddle ESB (Extra Special Bitter), and Fitger’s Starfire Pale Ale; all made using a “clone kit,” explained later. Water is also provided, along with a souvenir beer glass you can keep.
During our lesson, Katoski brewed a two and a half gallon batch of Session IPA in a five-gallon pot, using Australian summer hops and caramel malt. While IPA (India Pale Ale) is a hugely popular beer, many people are seriously turned off by its bitterness. This brings me to my next point; another concept we picked up in class is the idea of IBUs: International Bittering Units, which are used to measure the bitterness of beer. Wheat or pilsner beers are the lowest, with about 10 – 30 IBUs. Pale ales are in the mid-range, with 35 – 50 IBUs, and IPAs are off the charts, with upwards of 50 IBUs.
COST AND “CLONE KITS”
In the long run, it can be cheaper to brew your own beer. Katoski shared that purchasing two cases of Bent Paddle Beer will run you about $85 – $90, while purchasing and using a clone kit to make it yourself runs about $35 – $55 for the same amount of beer. Recipes can be found to copy just about any of your favorite beers. DHS sells what are called “clone kits,” which include the recipes and ingredients to make your favorite varieties at home, including everything from Guinness to Leinie’s.
LAKE SUPERIOR MAKES SUPERIOR BEER
As many local breweries are well aware, we have some pretty great beermaking water in the Northland. “We are incredibly lucky in Duluth,” Katoski shares. “We have excellent brewing water. You don’t need to do anything to it before you get started.” Even after all the ingredients are mixed in, beer is comprised of 90% water, so you can see how H2O is a very important factor. VERDICT Duluth Homebrew Supply offers an impressive amount of supplies and ingredients, as well as the expert-level knowledge you need to get started brewing your own beer. It’s a great venue for you to seek advice to correct the mistakes you will inevitably make, and meet some new friends with common interests. And if you’re already an expert, you can always pick up a helpful tip or two, or share your brewing knowledge with the class. Even if, like me, you aren’t interested in brewing your own, I think any beer aficionado would agree: the “Intro to Brewing” course is both fun and informative. And, any course where they serve cold beer is a winner in my book.
For more information, please visit duluthhomebrew.com
Written by Andrea Busche for Duluth.com the magazine