DIY Beer?

Eudora lets you brew your own

By Kevin J. Gray

Photo: A colander holds the hops to steep while the wort boils at Eudora Brewing Company

On a mid-winter afternoon, Neil Chabut welcomes me to Eudora Brewing Company, one of the nearly two dozen breweries that dot the Miami Valley. Like the others, Eudora sprang up within the last two years, makes beer to service its modest tap room and has a steady (and growing) group of devotees. What differentiates Eudora from other breweries, though, is that at Eudora, customers can also make their own beer. Eudora is both a brewery and a brew-on-premises (BOP).

What is a BOP? The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB, defines a brew-on-premises as “a business that provides space and equipment to the public to brew and bottle their own beer.” BOPs are not required to be breweries, but more often than not, they are part of a larger brewing operation. At a BOP, customers select recipes, purchase raw ingredients, then use the company’s equipment to brew, ferment, bottle and label their own beers. At the end of the process, customers take their beers home to share with friends and family. The BOP staff advises customers on brewing techniques and processes, but it is the customers themselves who produce the beers.

The BOP concept is nearly as old as the craft beer movement, and saw an upsurge in the 1990s. Today, BOPs are rare but are making a comeback. Eudora is one of only a few BOPs in the state, and the only one in southwest Ohio. The Brew Kettle in Strongville is perhaps Ohio’s most famous BOP, but there are also two others: Little Mountain Brewing Company in Mentor, Ohio and North High Brewing in Columbus.

How did Eudora become a BOP? Chabut, who started as a homebrewer, explains that teaching people to brew has been the goal from the beginning.

“A few years ago,” Chabut said, “I was eating dinner and drinking a beer with some friends and I thought, what if there was a place where you could go and learn how to brew and actually do it, then take your beer home and drink it? I didn’t know those places actually existed, so I did some research and found out about The Brew Kettle.” In the year since the BOP opened, Eudora has reached hundreds of craft beer devotees. Today, the BOP runs near capacity, working with upwards of 12 groups per week.

For our brewing session, Chabut and I are joined by Andrew Decker, Eudora’s BOP manager. We are brewing a test batch, a doppelbock, which, if successful, will join nearly two dozen other recipes in the BOP catalogue. We aren’t brewing on the main brewery’s stainless steel vessels, but rather, more modest copper-clad kettles dedicated solely to the BOP.

Decker walks me through a typical customer’s experience. He starts by reviewing the recipe and measuring out the grains, malt extracts and hops for our beer. Eudora’s production brewery, like most other breweries, makes all-grain beers. There, Chabut mashes, or soaks, malted barley in hot water to activate enzymes that convert starches to sugars for the wort, or unfermented beer. The BOP, however, uses malt extracts – concentrated malt sugars that require substantially less time and effort than the production brewery approach. The malt extract method is more akin to that used by beginning homebrewers, the BOP’s target market.

Although mostly extract-based, our batch requires small amounts of specialty grains to impart color and flavor, so we heat water in the kettles and steep the grains. We use a custom-made colander that functions like a giant tea strainer – it allows the grains to be submerged but allows for easy extraction once the soak is finished. After a short while, Decker pulls the grains out and adds the malt extract. Decker rinses out the colander, then fills it with hops for the first and second hop additions.

An hour later, our wort is complete and ready for fermenting. We run the unfermented beer through a plate chiller and into two sanitized and lined buckets, each holding about five gallons. We haul the buckets into the basement, where there are two rooms: one for fermenting ales and one, slightly colder, for lagers. The beer will ferment for about a month before going into a giant walk-in for crash cooling. The crash cooling helps to drop particulates out of the beer, making for a clearer, non-cloudy drink.

Our pilot beer will be ready to drink in mid March. Unlike most BOP customers, we won’t be bottling and labeling this beer. Instead, it will be available on draft at the taproom to solicit customer feedback. Chabut will decide whether to tweak the recipe or to add it to the recipe book, where future customers can brew similar batches.

Want to brew your own batch? Brew sessions are by appointment only and can be scheduled Wednesday through Sunday at noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Beer batches are five or 10 gallons and run between $100 to $185 per batch. Schedule your appointment online at eudorabrewing.com/brew-on-premises.

Kevin J. Gray is Dayton City Paper’s Resident Beer Geek. A firm believer in all things balanced, when Kevin isn’t drinking craft beer, he’s hiking or biking to keep his beer belly in optimal shape. Reach Kevin J. Gray at KevinGray@DaytonCityPaper.com.

Tags: , ,

One Response to “DIY Beer?” Subscribe