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Drink Up: Brewding young men

Three ASU students take drinking beer into their own hands

 by Kate Kliner
 published on Thursday, February 24, 2005

<em>Brandon Quester / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE</em><br>ASU students, from left to right, Mike Novell, Scott Johnson, and Matt Grinstead, brew their own beer at their home in Tempe. Using emptied kegs, glass jugs and an array of tubes and valves, the three can brew up to five gallons at a time./issues/arts/692157
Brandon Quester
Brandon Quester / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
ASU students, from left to right, Mike Novell, Scott Johnson, and Matt Grinstead, brew their own beer at their home in Tempe. Using emptied kegs, glass jugs and an array of tubes and valves, the three can brew up to five gallons at a time.
 
<em>Brandon Quester / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE</em><br>In their hallway closet, Novell, Grinstead, and Johnson pile boxes of already-brewed beer.  There is also a monthly planner pinned on the back of the closet door mapping the brew times and schedules of each beer./issues/arts/692157
Brandon Quester
Brandon Quester / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
In their hallway closet, Novell, Grinstead, and Johnson pile boxes of already-brewed beer. There is also a monthly planner pinned on the back of the closet door mapping the brew times and schedules of each beer.
 

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Drinking beer is an experience most college students have tried at least once. Many make it a permanent fixture of their lives, stocking up the fridge with Coronas or tipping a few back at their favorite watering hole.

But few ever take it to the same level as three ASU students have.
Business senior Mike Novell, construction management senior Scott Johnson and engineering sophomore Matt Grinstead actually brew their own beer.

They brewed the inaugural batch Oct. 31 in the backyard of their Mesa home and have brewed every weekend since.

"Our first brew was our best," Johnson says.

The group got started after a mutual friend of Johnson and Novell gave them some of his equipment, which he started using in sixth grade. They also got help from their 60-year-old neighbor, who has been brewing since his college days.

"If we hadn't known someone who knows what they're doing and has all the supplies, we would have been on our own and would not have started out as well as we did," Johnson says.

The first kit they bought cost $130 and included two buckets and grain powder, but Johnson says it's hard to estimate how much money they have spent collectively on equipment. He says each batch costs $30 to brew.

A decent batch will brew somewhere around five gallons, which equals about 50 beers, Johnson says.

"It's a hobby," Grinstead says. "And it's really not that cheap. We just about break even as far as equipment and cost."

The three bought an additional kit after their first but quickly outgrew it, Johnson says. It just wasn't enough to make beer in bulk.

Grinstead says the brewing requires patience and takes about a month per batch.

Their brews have an alcohol content of about 5 percent, which is determined by the type of malt extract and grain they use.

They buy their supplies from both Home Brew and Brewer's Connection, which are located in Tempe. The stores sell everything necessary to make any type of fermented beverage, from starter kits to recipes.

"You can really ferment anything that has sugar in it," Novell says. "You could ferment Kool-Aid if you really wanted to make it into an alcoholic beverage."

In the past, the guys have steamed apples and cinnamon to add to brown ale and fermented vanilla beans to flavor a batch of porter, Novell says.

"Every time we brew, we make a different kind of beer with a new recipe, and each has its own flavor," Grinstead says.

However, Novell says yeast is the most important ingredient.

"Essentially, the yeast eats the added sugar and craps out alcohol," he says.

Brewing also requires ample storage space. Grinstead says the equipment takes up about half of their garage. They also have a closet filled with about 200 bottled beers, which is why they are not quick to give away their precious concoctions.

"We usually don't have our home-brewed beer out at parties," Novell says. "We're pretty stingy with it."

Some may question the legality of home brewing, but it's completely legitimate.

According to the Tempe Tax and Licensing Department, a license is required for any "liquor sales or activities," but this has not been a problem for the guys.

"There's nothing illegal about what we're doing," Johnson says. "The only thing we're not allowed to do is sell it."

Anything more than 60 gallons of home-brewed beer per year for one person constitutes bootlegging, but Novell says they are in the clear since they produce about 100 gallons a year between the three of them.

"And besides, the cops like our beer," Novell says.

Novell says their friends aren't fazed by the fact that they make their own beer.

"They kind of expect it from us," he says.

Grinstead says "some of our friends worry about drinking our beer because there's not a label on it that they know, but others are all about trying it."

Novell says while what they do may seem uncommon, it is rather prevalent.


"You would actually be surprised how many people make their own beer," he says. "A lot of college students do."

Ian Shephard, a December 2004 ASU graduate, recalls mixing his own beer on a few different occasions as an experiment. He purchased a kit online containing yeast and barley for about $30.

"The first time I brewed, it didn't turn out very well and tasted horrible," he says. "But by about the third batch, I got the recipe down and learned the process."

However, he says it is difficult finding the time to devote to brewing beer.

"It was too time-consuming for me to keep making my own. It's just easier to buy it at the store."

Reach the reporter at kate.kliner@asu.edu.



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