By: Shawndra Russell

 

Brew with Brewmasters

 

Many homebrewers share the story of his or her first brew with the wistfulness of a first kiss flashback. They can tell you when, where, how and, of course, if it was good or bad. As homebrewers accumulate more equipment and become masters of their craft, some turn to commercial brewing, but this path certainly doesn’t appeal to everyone. Many homebrewers and beer lovers in general would gladly jump on the chance to brew in a commercial setting, even if only once in their lives (I know I would!). Well, these three USA breweries provide the opportunity to live like a brewmaster for one day.

 

Brew Anytime

Vine Park Brewing in St. Paul, Minnesota

Vine Park has their brew-it-yourself system honed into a 3-step process. First, an online calendar shows what time slots for any two-week period and allows you to select a recipe from more than 50 choices. They brew nearly every day, and groups can call in to book a “Brew Party.” Next, you come in to brew for about two hours and they monitor your beer during the fermentation process for the next two weeks. Lastly, budding brewers come back in to bottle and sample their suds. And if your partner or friends are wine lovers, they can also get in on the fun as Vine Park offers wine making, but the nectar of your efforts has to ferment for six weeks instead of two. To make your reservations, fill out this form or call 651-228-1355.

 

Brew a Few Times Per Year

Frankenmuth Brewery in Frankenmurth, Michigan

Frankenmurth can trace its roots to 1862, making it one of the oldest breweries in America. Since they have this brewing thing down pat, they offer a Brewmaster For a Day package where attendees receive a “graduation certificate,” growler, t-shirt, group photo, loyalty club membership, tastings, and an instructional booklet for $195 per person, plus the honorary brewers are welcomed back a month later to taste their efforts. The program launched in 2009 with 250 students in the initial class, and their next Brewmaster for a Day event is June 27, 2015, so give them a call at 989-262-8300 or visit http://www.frankenmuthbrewery.com/brewmaster to reserve your spot.

 

Brew If Your Recipe Is Selected

Open Brewing in Asheville North Carolina

Open Brewing describes their brewpub as “the first commercial brewpub in the country dedicated to homebrewers.” So what does this dedication look like exactly? Well, homebrewers can submit their recipe via a simple online form and if selected, they will be invited to brew their beer on location and actually earn credit toward future beer purchases. They’ll also get plenty of feedback as the beertenders encourage patrons to share their reactions. So far, the local beer community in Western North Carolina has flocked to the concept, keeping the tanks full and the guest taps flowing. Joanna Postlethwaite, Open Brewing’s marketing coordinator, says of the program, “This has, and continues to be, a truly awesome journey for us, bringing together the best of the homebrewing and commercial brewing worlds in an exciting partnership. Homebrewing is quite often in the forefront of trying out new ingredients and methods, and we’re thrilled to be able to incorporate these ideas at Open to push the boundaries of brewing and serve a lineup of inspired beers.” Truly an example of craft culture leading the way, and I hope more brewpubs across the country begin similar programs.

 

Keep in mind this commercial brewing opportunity is not for the casual beer lover as the form requires brewers to submit their:

  • batch size
  • water additions
  • malts (brand and weight)
  • mash/boil (temperature/time)
  • hops (addition time, variety and weight)
  • yeast (company and yeast #)

 

Obviously the form alone deters brewing novices, which means that some of the brews patrons get to taste are of some serious quality. However, Postlethwaite did share that “we have tailored the brewing process to adjust to a variety of experiences, from an enthusiastic beer lover who may just be getting into homebrewing to a seasoned homebrewer with several larger-batch brews under their belt.”

When we stopped by, there was a quad on tap by a homebrewer that was outstanding—just as good as any commercial quad I’d had, in fact. And the chalkboard above the serving tanks puts the homebrewer front and center, like homebrewer David Maida’s Ruby Slippers Red IPA from Fletcher, North Carolina. This isn’t Maida’s first time pleasing the palates of Ashevillians; at last year’s Just Brew It! Homebrew Festival during Asheville Beer Week, Maida set up a table with two of his homebrews—a saison and an IPA—alongside a handful of homemade flavored syrups guests could squirt into their beers to make a flavor all their own. That kind of experimentation is at the heart of Open Brewing, yet it’s backed by the experience and success of Thirsty Monk brewmaster Norm Penn. Penn also utilizes Open Brewing for his own craziest concoctions like Beligian CoCoNorm and Bat Norm, a wee-heavy inspired dark ale.