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Brewing with CLASS

May, 2001

By Bobby Bush

Homebrewing is easily, though not necessarily, a solitary hobby. In contrast, beer, with all its styles and traditions, is a social beverage. And so with some degree of curiosity, 14 local homebrewers met in April at Amos Howard’s (formerly Olde Hickory Brewery) to discuss and drink beer and, most importantly, to consider the possibility of forming a Hickory-area homebrewers club.

Most homebrewers clubs serve three basic functions. They provide education about beer and brewing techniques. Clubs facilitate homebrewing-related social interaction and activities. And they promote the hobby and its enjoyment. There are over 600 homebrewing clubs worldwide.

May 5 was National Homebrew Day. Still without a formal club name, the group met for only its second time on this warm Saturday morning to brew. Two different beers utilizing two levels of brewing skill were demonstrated. With extract and specialty grain, my ten gallon batch was a hoppy American Pale Ale. The other side of the porch was busy with a more time-consuming technique. Olde Hickory brewer Jamie Bartholomaus brewed an all-grain, high gravity Barleywine. This strong, sipping beer won’t be ready for consumption for a year or so.

One year ago, over 1,800 members of various homebrew clubs gathered at 269 different locations around the world in a simultaneous brewing celebration producing 4,259 gallons of beer. At precisely 1:00 EDT a simultaneous toast was made in honor of homebrewing. For Big Brew 2001, seven of us local folks raised glasses to our own participation. It wasn’t our first beer that morning, or our last.

Three days later, our second monthly meeting was held at the tasting room in Olde Hickory Brewery, the downtown microbrewery. In attendance were brewery owners Steven Lyerly and Jason Yates, brewer Bartholomaus and special guest Brian Cole, North Carolina’s 2000 Homebrewer of the Year. Brian is a member of MALT, the Asheville club known more formerly as Mountain Ale and Lager Tasters. While club members shared various homebrew and craft-brewed beers, Brian spoke of beer, brewing, the certified beer judge program, homebrew competition and the activities of three-year-old MALT. Questions and more beer kept him occupied for over three hours.

At this meeting, the club chose an official name. Voting from a list prepared by organizer James Arney, CLASS was selected. The Catawba Lager and Ale Sipping Society has yet to prepare a mission statement. That will take a few more beers. But with American Homebrewers Association registration behind us, we’re on our way. This group of beer-interested people includes non-brewing beer lovers, intermediate level brewers like me and professional brewers like Jamie and Steven.

Some of the ideas that we’ve discussed include holding homebrew education, tastings and evaluation classes; forming a lending library for brewing books, bottles and equipment; intra- and inter-club competition; co-op purchasing of ingredients; hosting guest speakers; brewery tours; attending and, maybe one day, sponsoring a beer festival. There’s lots a club can do.

One thing for certain, we’ll closely follow the philosophy of the grand poo-bah of homebrewing, author and AHA-founder Charlie Papazian. No matter what happens, Charlie’s theory is simply “Relax. Don’t Worry. Have a Homebrew.” No doubt we’ll adhere to his advice with CLASS.

` A club website can be found at www.classhomebrewers.org. CLASS meets the second Tuesday of every month at Amos Howards Brew Work, Hwy 70 West, Hickory, NC. No experience, except a fondness for beer, is necessary.

This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush

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