I had the opportunity a few weeks back to stand shoulder to shoulder with a couple of pro brewers and listen to them talk shop. But how did this amazing opportunity come about?
I’m so glad you asked.
It was the first real meeting of the Glendale homebrew club, the Barley Boys and Nancy Brews (BB&NB); since Covid, and I hadn’t been to one of their meetings before. Honestly, I’ve never been to a homebrew club meeting. Too many obstacles for me. Some clubs charge monthly dues. No thanks. Others are an hour drive away. Hard no. The BB&NB club is local, with no dues, and with my career change over a year ago, I actually have the time now.
So why not?
Well… It almost didn’t happen. I got home from work, and had an hour to kill before I needed to make the five minute drive to the meeting. I was tired. Not feeling super social. I just wanted to stay home and relax with the family.
Thankfully it did not happen because my wife thought it would be good for me to go (Or she wanted me out of the house. Not sure which…)
So I head over, and the turnout is great! There had to be close to 30 people or so, all mingling around talking about beer. They were even hosting a beer competition, with the three judges being pro brewers from the Glendale area. I had decided not to enter the competition because the style they had chosen the judge was a hazy IPA. I do love a good hazy, but I didn’t want to brew any sort of IPA. They are so readily available everywhere that I’ve been really focusing on other styles.
So they take all of the competition beers back, and I start to circulate and talk with the other club members. A lot of great brewers are in this club. Everyone is enjoying the first club gathering in over a year.
This is where it gets cool.
The competition is over. The Brewers come back out and the winners are announced. Congratulations are thrown around, and everyone settles back into their group discussions.
Before I continue, allow me to set the stage a bit.
The celebrity judges happen to come from three breweries that I thoroughly enjoy. First up, Carlos Toma, owner and head brewer at Throne (formerly Dubina). That brewery has had an interesting history, but since Carlos has been there, the beers have really improved.
Next we have Rand Miller from North Mountain. He is a new addition there (a few months now) but he has been in the industry for a bit, and really knows his craft.
Finally we have Tyler Smith, owner and brewer at Kitsune. He’s been contract brewing out of Simple Machine while he gets his own brewery lined up and ready to launch next year. This dude is quite the character, and has released massive IPA after massive IPA. His personal brand is so interesting that I HAD to contribute to his Kickstarter (plus the chance to brew with him as a Kickstarter prize didn’t hurt at all).
So here I am, circulating and swapping stories and tips with my fellow homebrewers. It’s getting late, and the group is slowly thinning out. Next thing I know I’m standing shoulder to shoulder with the three big dogs.
So I have to pause again to get you into my current frame of mind. I like to think of myself as a good brewer from a technical standpoint. I’m always reading and studying to improve my craft. It’s my constant obsession to know everything I can to make my beer better. I love teaching and sharing the craft. I’ve worked hard to elevate my skills so I can hold my own, while always remembering that there is still always more to learn.
So back to my current brewing circle. These guys are swapping stories of their transition from homebrewer, to Pro Brewer. About how their first pro batches were ridiculously expensive because they still had the homebrewers frame of mind. When it comes to brewing as a business, margins are everything. They all learned, very quickly, how to achieve the same flavor profile using less costly ingredients.
Something that Carlos Toma said during their conversation really stuck with me.
“The difference between pro-brewer and homebrewer is that the homebrewers are trying to make PERFECT beer, while the pro-brewers are trying to make GOOD beer.”
This makes complete sense. On the homebrew scale, upgrading your malt or adding a unique ingredient might add a few dollars to your total batch cost, so no big deal. On the pro side, this could impact costs by hundreds of dollars.
So what are my takeaways from this experience? First off, how cool of these guys, at the end of their day, to take the time to give back to the local homebrew community. Never forgetting the roots or the influence they continue to have.
Second, no matter how much you think you know there is always someone who knows more than you. Despite all that these guys can do, they were humble and approachable with absolutely no arrogance whatsoever.
For those of you that make that leap or even for those that don’t, never forget your roots, and always give back to the community that helped to support you.
Until next time my friends