I've got a little more on homebrewing for you today. This week's show was part two of my interview with Gui and Dennis, and this time we're talking ingredients—what you need, and which ones you can find locally. Let's dive in!
There are only four basic ingredients you need for making beer: water, yeast, malt, and hops. Most of them you can find locally—obviously, local water is easy. Yeast you actually don't want to find locally—according to Gui and Dennis, local, wild yeast is everywhere in the air, and a big part of making good beer is keeping it out. You don't know what it will taste like, and if it gets into your brew, it can lend it some off flavors pretty fast. Most homebrewers buy yeast at homebrew stores (Cape Cod Beer has a good one) or online. Dennis and Gui recommend two websites: Wyeast and Whitelabs.
Next up is malt, which has the most exciting local news I think. First off, I should explain what malt is. It's grain—often barley, but anything works—that has been steeped in hot water and left to germinate. Once the wet grain sprouts and gets just to the right point—the point when it has the most nutrient potential—it's dried and you have malt in the form that homebrewers buy. The person or company who does this work is called a maltster, and more and more are popping up in New England. The one I'm most interested in is Valley Malt in Hadley Massachusetts. They make malt from locally grown grains and even have a Malt of the Month Club that works like a CSA! If I start brewing, I'm joining.
Finally, you need hops. Hops used to be big business in New England, and thanks to the Northeast Hops Alliance, which was founded in 2001, they're making a comeback. Companies like Peak Organic are using all local hops grown just for them in many of their beers, and places like Foothill Hops in New York are selling locally grown hops to homebrewers. Better yet, hops are easy to grow and a lot of homebrewers are starting to grow them in their own backyards. Dennis has friends who found hops growing in their backyard in Wellfleet (to see a picture so you can check your backyard, click on over here), and he says he made an excellent IPA with them last summer.
So an all-local brew? Yes, it's possible. It just takes a little more work.
Next Thursday we'll talk homebrewing with Gui and Dennis again—this time, they'll walk us through the process. I'll see you then.