Born to Brew: Bluff City Brewers & Connoisseurs on the Joys of Homebrewing

By Edible Memphis | October 01, 2013
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Brew Day
The group enjoying Brew Day

You can hear the friendly banter from several doors away. It’s a Sunday “Brew Day” with the Bluff City Brewers at the home of club member Robert Harrell in the Evergreen neighborhood. Men and women of all ages are gathered around a grill, picnic table, and two batches of beer being made onsite. They’ll craft and talk today, then try their brewed concoctions at their next event.

It’s part social and part education. The conversation moves from “gravity” and “ABV” (alcohol by volume) to the appreciated craft beer selections at the Cleveland Ave. Kroger and Cash Saver. The goal is simple: promote beer literacy and the responsible appreciation of real beer.

Richard Heath
Beer Tastes
Photo 1: Richard Heath offers a bit of “how to”
Photo 2: tastings

Richard Heath is the president of the club and has been homebrewing for about seven years. This day is a demonstration and a get-together, he explains. Most of the members brew for their personal consumption, and they focus on what they like or what they can’t buy in the stores. Brew Day is a way to taste different styles — exposure leads to appreciation.

The club has members at all levels. Most start with kits, where the math and chemistry are figured out for you. Then they move on to kits plus tweaking. And finally they’ll progress to crafting their own “all-grain” recipes. Richard equates the process to making a cake. You can make a perfectly fine cake with a box mix. But as you get more comfortable, you’re likely to flavor the icing or add sliced strawberries to the cake. All grain brewing is like baking a cake from scratch.

The club has been around since 1980, and it currently has about 50 members. Jeff Kinzer has been home brewing for four years and says, “Beer is like good food. You can eat microwaved dinners and drink Budweiser — or you can eat gourmet food and finely crafted beer.”

Federal law states that an individual can brew 100 gallons per year for personal consumption. A household with two or more adults can brew up to 200 gallons. Each batch crafted today makes about five gallons of beer (about two cases).

Though the process takes a few hours, it’s not the type of cooking that requires close attention. Smartphones go off occasionally to signal it’s time to add something to the mix, but all in all, it’s a casual afternoon of brewing.

The members are all generous with their knowledge and their time. They’re involved in the local brew festivals and are looking forward to exposing friends to the new craft breweries in town.

Brewing supplies can be obtained at Midsouth Malts or online. But club members even brewed with local hops grown at Dixon Gallery and Gardens (Dale Skaggs is the director of horticulture and a homebrew aficionado) to serve at the Art on Tap event held at the Dixon each September.

The club hosts events for all levels, from a Learn to Homebrew class, scheduled for November 3 at the Memphis Botanic Garden, to newbie and advanced classes. Says club member Monte Fout, who has been brewing for about two years, “If you can boil water, you can make beer.”

Bluff City Brewers
The Club meets on the third Thursday of each month, 7:00 PM at
Central BBQ on Summer Avenue. Guests and new members welcome.
Membership is $25 per year individual, $35 per year per family.

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