Hobby wets man’s whistle

The coat closet at Sean Robertson’s home has nary a coat inside. Instead it is filled with an assortment of empty bottles and the makings of his next batch of home-brewed beer.

At college in Colorado, he became interested in the process after visiting the New Belgium microbrewery, then just a local enterprise in Fort Collins.

Robertson makes both beer and wine and has gradually invested in the necessary equipment-a 5-gallon carboy, hoses and siphons, a specific gravity tester, a cork inserter and CO2 cylinders to serve on tap.

As for ingredients, he experiments with different kits purchased from Alabrew.

Homebrewing for personal consumption is legal under federal law.

“You can spend as much or as little as you want, as all you really need is a bucket and some bottles,” Robertson said.

He estimates a good basic set of equipment will cost $150.

The process consists of brewing, cooling, fermenting, bottling and conditioning.

“Cleanliness is the critical factor. You want no bacteria other than the yeast to be in your brew. Luckily, I have never had a batch go bad,” he said.

A special sanitizing solution (such as commercial restaurants use) is a must for rinsing.

Robertson’s closet bears the stains from just one accidental explosion.

The airlock became clogged and pressure blew the tightly sealed lid off the bucket and he arrived home to find the house mightly reeking of beer.

After cleaning up, he found the batch to still be drinkable.

“I always test every batch first myself and if I’m still alive the next day, I share it with friends,” he said.

He will contribute a special Riesling bottled in cobalt glass to his family Christmas dinner.

The ingredients for beer include grain and hops for flavoring and bittering, and there are hundreds of different grains and hops to choose from.

Robertson recently ordered a Black Chocolate Stout kit, rated 1.075 for gravity and 45 for bitterness.

The ingredients include light malt extract, Muntons roasted barley, Muntons chocolate, Muntons crystal 150, Muntons black patent, Target for bittering and fuggle for flavor.

Robertson shares this hobby with several friends and they trade bottles back and forth.

“Most of my friends have had to get approval from their wives prior to getting into this,” he said. “Many wives who were initially adverse to the idea changed their minds after learning that the same equipment can be used for winemaking.”

Laura Brookhart can be reached by e–mail at labro16@yahoo.com.