Your first time: be hyper-vigilant
"There's so many steps to the home brewing process and if you change one little thing, it could change the beer totally," Meredith said. "You want the beer to be as comfortable as you are. You don't want it too hot or too cold. It's like a baby. You have to take care of it. Don't forget about it when you go on vacation and turn your AC off."
They stress that the easiest way to improve your beer is to regulate your fermentation temperature. Unfortunately, that's also not always an easy thing to do. "If it drops thirty degrees in the spring between daytime and nighttime, over that swing, you can really affect your beer," Garrett warned. Sanitation is also integral to the process. "You're looking to essentially create one strain of yeast involved with a specific sugar base and combining those two so it's the only thing that happens takes a lot of cleaning and a lot of sanitation," he said.
Becoming obsessed: you can do it just about anywhere
Thankfully, you don’t need a lot of space to operate in when cooking up beer where you live. In fact, Meredith and Garrett started home brewing in their studio apartment. "Jim [Koch] from Sam Adams started with the same equipment we did -- a five-gallon pot on his stove," Garrett said.
"And Sam [Calagione] from Dogfish Head, their original brewhouse was only a little bit bigger than ours. They'd brew 10 gallons four or five times a day just to keep up," Meredith added.
As for what the couple does with their homebrewing output, well, that’s what their classes and events are for: to inspire their students by having them taste a variety of beer styles.
Finding community: it's more inclusive than most people think
The most common misconception about home brewing is that it’s a solitary endeavor, that it’s something lonely men do in the shadows (or in their dank basements). In fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
"The community that's around brewing is very supportive," Meredith noted. "It is welcoming to women. Especially with the Philly Homebrew Club, there's a lot of women involved, and not just because their husbands are part of it. It’s because they want to be there and they want to learn and they brew on their own."
It’s this spirit of welcoming that inspired them to launch the upcoming S.E.E.D. Festival, which stands for Sustainable Everyday Edibles and Drinkables. It’s Philly’s first-ever vegan craft food and beer festival, to be held on August 14th at SugarHouse Casino, which is good news for those who aren’t keen to drive to a drinking festival as public transportation will be readily available.
Most beer events cater to meat eaters, which can be alienating to beer-swilling vegetarians and vegans. Meredith and Garrett decided to flip the script and offer an alternative, even insuring that the beer they offer at their festival will be vegan. "There's a clarifying agent made out of fish bladder [called isinglass]. Not every brewery uses it, some do," Garrett explained. By working with breweries directly, they’ll be able to confidently supply vegan beer at their festival. And with that detail, they’ve made Philadelphia beer history.
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