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San Diego Craft and Home Brewers Collaborate To Promote Quality Beer

Brian Trout and Nick Rakovec mix grain with hot water into his Mashtun, October, 2014
Nicholas McVicker
Brian Trout and Nick Rakovec mix grain with hot water into his Mashtun, October, 2014
San Diego Craft and Home Brewers Work To Promote Quality

What's the secret ingredient in San Diego craft beer? Lots of local brewers point to collaboration between professionals and home brewers.

It's no secret that professional craft brewing is booming in San Diego. In 2013, National University released a study that showed local craft breweries and brew pubs had a regional economic impact of nearly $300 million dollars in 2011. According to the San Diego Brewers Guild, San Diego County currently boasts 94 local breweries, and will contain more than 100 by the end of the year.

And the home brewing side of the equation has been steadily growing too. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed H.R. 1337 into law, allowing any adult to produce up to 100 gallons of wine or beer for local consumption per year. There are many ways to home brew, but the process boils down to creating a sugary, malty substance preserved and flavored with hops, for yeast to feed on. The yeast converts sugar into alcohol and ultimately, when done correctly, beer. Many local breweries began as home brewing operations, including Alesmith in Miramar.

Things have obviously changed a lot since 1978 and H.R. 1337. George Thornton, owner of a home brewing shop in North Park called The Homebrewer, said local clubs and events help foster community between home brewers and professional craft brewers.

"I think the thing that's really changed in San Diego is the quality of beer coming out from home brewers," said Thornton. "You have all these home brewer clubs, all these people sharing ideas, people getting together to do bottle shares, whether it's commercial beer or home brew."

Brian Trout Saison Recipe
The recipe Brian Trout brewed October, 2014
To view PDF files, download Acrobat Reader.

On a Saturday in October, Brian Trout is brewing a saison with his friend Nick Rakovec. The process involves soaking grains in high temperature water to extract sugars, boiling the liquid with hops and then letting it rest with yeast.

Trout is a member of QUAFF or Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity here in San Diego. The group's members include professional craft brewers and home brewers alike. It provides a meeting space for members to talk home brewing.

Trout echoed Thornton on collaboration between home brewers and professional craft brewers, saying, "We want everyone to do well, because when someone does bad, it hurts everyone. Home brewers have the ability to make five, ten, 15 gallons of beers. You could screw it up, and it's ok. When you're a pro you cannot.”

The home brewers act almost as quality control, Trout said. "The agility that we have helps the power that they have, and it works back and forth, back and forth."

"We've been working really, really, really hard to build this culture and elevate beer to were it belongs, putting it back on the table with wine," Thornton added. "We get new home brewers everyday."