The last two years have found a lot of people stuck at home with more time on their hands. Whether you fit into that category, or are just simply looking for a new hobby, homebrewing may be for you.
Homebrewing is a relatively easy and cheap hobby or thing-to-do. It’s so easy in fact that many homebrewers get their start with a trip to Home Depot or by getting a brewing kit.
“I used a lot of stuff from Home Depot and Lowe’s. Still do,” said Roast and Toast general manager and homebrewer Ben Walker.
“You can get all food safe stuff and it’ll be fine to use. You can quite literally brew with just a pot, a hose and a bucket. It may take a little longer and taste a little different but, in the end, you’ll still have a good homebrewed beer,” he said.
Walker got his start in brewing many years ago when he though about turning some Concord grapes his mom had into wine.
He eventually end up buying a starter kit that came with all the basic essentials needed to start brewing whatever it is you want to brew or make.
“Those kits are great to start with as it has all of the basic essentials you need and the carboy and tubing and it just makes it really easy to get started,” he said.
Northern Michigan is home to many breweries but the homebrew scene is lacking in a sense as the area’s only brewing supply stores are in Traverse City.
Both UBrew and Diversions in Traverse City offer home brewing supplies to get any beginner started and any novice or expert in brewing supplies and essential upgrades they may need to better their kit.
UBrew — a brewing supply shop located at Fresh Coast Beer Works — also carries over 70 different malts and more than 70 different hop varieties. The brewing business also offers occasional classes. They did not return News-Review phone calls or emails for more information.
Diversions — known most for being a hat store — also carries a selection of brewing equipment and is where Walker got his first kit.
“I was in there looking at hats but they randomly had brewing stuff and kits and so I got one and started brewing,” he said.
Over the years, Walker has brewed a multitude of wines, beers and meads and loves being able to experiment, make what he likes and learn through the process of it all.
Walker is also part of local homebrewing club UNCLE — the Up North Libation Exploration — that started around 2014. The club used to meet about once a month to talk about homebrewing and share recipes, brews and more.
“We haven’t really met in the last two years really because of the pandemic but we had people from Petoskey, Boyne City, Harbor Springs and some people from Onaway. We, of course, would welcome anyone,” he said.
Walker also mentioned that the area’s homebrewing scene wouldn’t have really gotten anywhere without his late friend Colin Brougham who had a tremendous impact on the scene. Some of Brougham’s recipes are still brewed to this day by local homebrewers and even Beards Brewery in Petoskey.
Walker still enjoys brewing a number of recipes he and Brougham came up with together, including a barrel aged rye stout and and asparagus rye saison they called “sparizon.”
However, a lot of the more complex beers took Walker years to come up with and brew after learning the ropes of brewing.
“I do really suggest that people get a kit if they want to start out but the biggest thing is to also not get intimidated by it,” said Walker.
“I’ve had people come over to brew that have gotten intimidated by all of my equipment but none of that is really needed. You can literally do this with a trip to Home Depot or Lowe’s,” he said.
Walker also suggests “The Complete Joy of Home Brewing” by Charlie Papazian and YouTube channel City Steading Brews for a more in-depth look at brewing.
Those interested in learning more about UNCLE and homebrewing can also reach out to email@example.com.
“It really is a fun thing to do and great hobby you can do once or get really invested in. Just have fun with it and, as Papazian says in his book, ‘relax and have a homebrew,'” said Walker.