It could have been the finest drama of power and betrayal that Shakespeare never wrote. A young man learns the homebrewing craft but ultimately abandons his former employer for an IT career. Economic factors out of his control bring that to a halt, and he comes back to a career in beer -- this time, though, working for one of the largest retailers in the country rather than the funky little independent shop. Then, in a final "I know thee not, old man" moment, he begins selling homebrewing equipment and ingredients, dashing his former mentor's area near-monopoly.
But as it turned out, anyone hoping for a showdown between Homebrew Headquarters owner Kelly Harris and his former employee and apparent new would-be competitor, Central Market beer specialist (and Seth Rogen look-alike) Ben Motley, was sorely mistaken yesterday.
Harris did not show up at yesterday's Home Brewing Workshop (part of the grocery store's Brewtopia celebration) to stand up for his shop as the premiere destination for local homebrewers. As it turns out, that status will remain unchallenged: Central Market is selling only a few beginner-level homebrewing kits, and likely only through the Brewtopia campaign, which ends Wednesday, or possibly through the holiday season.
In fact, Harris led the workshop, with Motley's help. So much for dramatic confrontations.
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As it turned out, while there were a few experienced homebrewers in attendance, the demonstration was aimed primarily at beginners and would-be brewers yet to brew their first batch. Harris explained the basic ingredients of beer, passed around hop leaves and three different types of malted barley, and stressed the most crucial element to brewing: sanitation. Meanwhile, Motley used the classroom kitchen to start a batch of pilsner from a partial-grain kit.
During lulls in the demonstration, such as a half-hour wait for the grains to steep, Harris fielded audience questions ranging from basics to helping more experienced brewers trouble-shoot their efforts.
One of the more interesting revelations was that Homebrew Headquarters, which currently sells supplies for wine, beer, liqueur and soda, will begin selling cheese-making supplies next week.
As for myself, I learned a few things that may help my own good-but-not-great brews. Weak head may be from the soap I used to clean my brewing equipment or even my drinking glasses. Weak carbonation may be from not using enough priming sugar. Generally funky taste may be from my tap water, or from not cooling my wort quickly enough. In other words, things I could have learned in a short phone call or perhaps a visit to the store. But the enthusiasm of the class was infectious, strengthening my resolve to get started on another batch soon, and being around fellow beer geeks is always fun. And while it may not improve my beer, it might improve my standing with other brewers when I start pronouncing "wort" correctly: wert.