Of the hundreds of varieties of craft beers available at microbreweries throughout Oregon, bacon, oyster, horseradish, fig, beet and pork chop are not mouth-watering flavors that often come to mind when craving a cold pint. But according to members of the Cascade Brewers Society (CBS), home-brewed creations like Curry Stout, Licorice Logger or Beet Weiser are mighty tasty.
“Home brewers are willing to throw anything in, as long as it’s well thought out,” says CBS President Brandt Weaver. “Brew the beer you want to drink,” he recommends, “as long as it turns out, drink it.”
CBS began with 10 or 12 members back in the early ’80s, after President Jimmy Carter legalized home brewing in 1978 and while individual states were still working out their own production laws. Over the years CBS has grown to 93 members, and while Weaver says anyone and everyone is welcome, Eugene could definitely handle another home brewing club.
Membership is $20 a year and goes toward club social events and competitions. CBS has monthly meetings and happy hour gatherings on the third Friday of every month at local venues, as well as beer potlucks that members host, an annual summer camp-out, plenty of brew competitions and even a chili cook-off.
“I’m not sure if I’d be friends with some of these people if we talked about personal politics or religion,” Weaver says, “but the beer evens it all out; it’s the beer that brings us together.”
More than 14 years ago, Weaver was introduced to home brewing by a couple of his crewmembers in the Coast Guard, and several years later he joined CBS. As with any hobby, Weaver explains, there are different levels of brewing, from simply using extract syrup in the kitchen to using multigrain in your own entirely stainless-steel home brewery. “People get into it, like all passions,” he says, “and there are a hell of a lot of home brewers in Eugene.”
There are at least a few thousand home brewers, CBS Vice President Steve Anderson estimates from his own personal experience working at the Falling Sky Fermentation Supply Shop. Anderson began brewing about five years ago when, to put it simply, the amount of craft beer he was drinking was getting expensive. So he began to brew his own. “You can make, on average, 5 gallons for about $35,” he says, “and you can make whatever you want.”
If you’re new to the game, Falling Sky offers several start-up kits and other fermentation equipment. Anderson recommends the “middle-of-the-road” deluxe starter kit for about $160, but they also have cheaper options around $120.
“It’s like anything you do with your hands, it’s a hobby. You make something and you get results,” says member Keith Anderson, who brewed his first beer back in 1994. He got together with a couple of friends and bought a start-up kit with extract, hops, yeast, grains to steep, brown sugar, instructions, some pots, pans, hoses and buckets. Everything boiled over and made a mess, but Anderson remembers the beer still tasted good. Now a couple decades later, Anderson just won an award for the Belgian blonde he made for his wife.
“Most people like that it’s sort of like cooking,” Weaver says. “You can make stuff at home you really like without having to go out and buy it. And with the club it’s a social thing where we can all share brewing ideas with friends.”
Currently, Weaver has a brew day once every three weeks and produces about 5 gallons worth. The brewing process takes five hours, then fermentation for a week and a couple weeks for the bottle to carbonate.
Weaver likes to keep a variety of beers on hand, such as a dark, a blonde, a hoppy and a Belgian. While some brewers are always coming up with wild new concoctions, Weaver has more traditional tastes, except for competitions or events when he tends to throw something unexpected in the mix. “Use creativity, experience and knowledge to create beautiful beers,” Weaver says. “That’s what most of us do.”
Join CBS at a monthly meeting or upcoming event like the Sasquatch Brew Fest on Saturday, June 7, from noon to 10:30 pm in the Ninkasi Brewery distribution parking lot near 155 Blair Blvd., to support the Glen Hay Falconer Foundation. Or come to Learn to Brew Day on the first Saturday in November. For more information about CBS, check out cascade-brewers.com or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.