Home brewing in Dayton with D.R.A.F.T.
You may think you like beer, but have you spent hours on end discussing the qualities of hops? Have you traveled out of state and miles away just to get that limited release flavor? Can you taste when a beer has been aged? Can you tell a brewery by smell? If you said “yes” to any of these questions, you may want to consider joining DRAFT (the Dayton Regional Amateur Fermentation Technologists).
Getting involved in homebrew doesn’t take a background in the culinary arts. All you need is a passion for beer and some interest in the creation of it.
“I have been interested in cooking and engineering ever since high school,” said Scott Young, president of DRAFT “Home-brewing is a combination of science, engineering and the joy of cooking. Once I started enjoying good beer and talking about better beer with friends, I found out that many people around me brewed their own. My wife bought me a home-brewer starter kit for Christmas in the mid-1990s. I brewed a few purchased kits and then started brewing from recipes I found in books, magazines and online. I now make a lot of my own equipment, have progressed into brewing from grain instead of extract and have experimented with ingredients, different techniques, etc. One of these days, I hope to get more involved with yeast harvesting and propagating, but for now, I am keeping things simple and fun.”
“I was first introduced to DRAFT at AleFest one year. They had a table set up with all manner of informational pamphlets on home brewing as well as a brewing demo,” said Gus Stathes, DRAFT vice president. “Once I saw how easy it was to actually brew, I went to BrewTensils and bought my starter kit. However, I didn’t join the club for another year or so. There was another beer festival going on and DRAFT was there again. I got to talking to the president at the time and he convinced me to swing by for the next meeting. My first meeting was a really great experience. I met tons of new home brewers and learned things that you just can’t find in books or on the Internet. DRAFT has been a part of my life ever since.”
While most public beer competitions seem to take themselves very seriously, the most important part of DRAFT is simply to have a good time.
“I absolutely love the people in our club,” Stathes explained. “Our membership ranges from people who are essentially experts on all things brewing to people who haven’t brewed a drop of beer in their lives. It’s a great learning experience for anyone interested in the fermented arts.”
“Home brewing gives you an opportunity to make really good beer, exactly the way you like it,” said Young. “Home brewing can be kept inexpensive and simple with a fairly small time commitment while making great beer. On the other hand, home brewing can be as complex as you wish to make it. It is a hobby/craft/art/lifestyle that you can start small and grow as far as you wish to take it. The key is to find the combination that fits your desire and get creative.”
DRAFT is involved with many competitions and they can help you prepare to face both the judges and your competitors.
“One of the most important aspects of DRAFT is the annual home brew competition, BrewFest,” said Young. “This competition is held every September. BrewFest is a day long event that home-brewers from all over the country send entries to be judged. DRAFT assembles a group of judges and stewards that judge roughly 200 home-brewed beers and meads throughout morning and afternoon sessions. Once the judging is complete, we have a chili cook-off dinner followed by the presentation of awards. BrewFest is one leg of the Midwest Home Brewer of the Year competition and a great way to get some respectable feedback on your entries.”
“Another standout point in the club are our in-house competitions,” added Stathes. “Particularly the Rock It Cup. Every other month, there’s a competition held where everyone brews the same recipe and the strongest contender wins. Sometimes the parameters will vary a bit, i.e. everyone makes the same beer, but uses a different strain of yeast or different hops.”
Having been involved with this for years now, both of these board members have seen the incredible growth and impact of home brewing.
“The rise of craft beer and home brewing have grown hand in hand over the last 15 to 20 years,” said Young. “In this same timeframe, many supply stores have opened online as well as local store fronts. Local home brewing associations are growing. Ingredients are more readily accessible and with activities like brew-outs behind Miami Valley BrewTensils, the craft is spreading.”
“Also, it’s kind of funny how the home brewing scene dictates, to an extent, the commercial side of beer,” Stathes observed. “Remember when every brewery was making a Black IPA? Those were showing up at club meetings and competitions before the industry caught on. Saisons are starting to become a big thing in the craft world, just like they have been in our little home brewing community for a while now.”
Whether you are a beer fanatic or enthusiastic novice, this club is fun, welcoming and well worth a try.
DRAFT meetings are held on the second Friday of each month at 7 p.m. at 4704 Burkhardt Ave. – except in September, the second Saturday is the DRAFT Brewfest. For more information, please visit daytondraft.org.
Learn more about Kate E Lore and see her web-comics and blog at KateELore.com. Kate can be reached at KateLore@DaytonCityPaper.com.