Sunday, February 27, 2011

Porter House Brew Class - a hidden gem

It's been awhile since the last post, but I figured I would wait until after my brew class at the Porter House Brew Shop to update the blog.You usually don't find a diamond on the side of the road, especially in Butler county, but that's just what I found by discovering the Porter House Brew Shop. A tiny, store front next to a general store that is home to 2 of the best people I've met in my home brewing journey.

Let me start off by saying: I had a busy weekend, but to make a long story short, I missed a trip to Penn Brewery for a good friend's Bday, and my girlfriend became Miss Butler County. In the midst of all that action, I got take my brewing class at the Porter House Brew Shop. Do yourself a favor....  just sit back, grab a beer and enjoy this story, because it's a good one. My brew class was yesterday from 4:30 - 6:30 in Portersville, PA. Portersville is right off of I-79, exit 96, on Perry Highway. Not too far from Moraine State Park. The shop is a great little place run by the husband and wife team of Ruth and Don. Ruth and Don decided to open up the shop three years ago and this place is has the classic mom and pop vibe. Ruth is a real firecracker and one of the most genuine people you'll meet. She makes everyone really comfortable and relaxed, especially if you don't know anything about brewing. Don is more of the silent type, full of knowledge, really nice guy, but is a little awkward in front of large groups. I'm pretty sure that's why Ruth had the reins during most of the class

Ok, ok, let me back this train up a bit. So I walked into the Porter House Shop right before 4:30 and to my surprise there were about 20 people all seated and huddled around the front table. Everyone had a beer in their hand, so right off the bat I knew this class was going to be good. There was a food table set up with cheese, crackers, and a crock pot filled with hot sausage and the shop's special sauce. Ruth greeted me and grabbed me a beer just as Don walked in from the back patio. Don looked to have something brewing on the deck. We'd later find out Don was brewing a black IPA that he had been working on for awhile. Ruth jumped right into introductions and told us what we would be learning. This was the breakdown for the night:
  • Laws on homebrewing
  • History of Brewing
  • What beer is made of and how to brew
  • Home brewing levels
  • Equipment
Oh, I almost forgot the best part. The really awkward meet and greet with everyone in the room. You know the feeling, everyone says their name and introduces themselves like you're in 4th grade again. Almost had an AA meeting vibe as we went around the room. "Hi, I'm John, I don't home brew yet, but I heard you were giving away beer samples". Who knows, maybe brewing classes are precursors to half these people going to AA - I joke, I joke. We all went around and said who we were, how much experience we have in home brewing, and what their favorite beers were. Some people were there to learn, some to get the free beer, and some to show everyone else how much they knew about craft beer. It was an eclectic assortment of people, but a fun group none the less. My favorite part about the meet and greet was how Ruth would judge what kind of person you were by the beer you said you liked to drink. I guess you can learn a lot about someone by what they have in the glass in front of them. Ruth is your classic beer snob and she's not afraid to tell you all about it. Ruth grabbed our hands and took us for a walk down memory lane. She said she used to like shitty beer when she was younger. Many years ago you would find her at a bowling alley with a pitcher full of coors light and a plastic cup. Not until her husband Don started brewing his own beer did she realize how bad coors light really is. She drinks craft beer now, and when she goes out, you'll find her with a rum and coke unless she's at a place that serves good beer.

OK, sort of went off topic there, but I wanted to paint a picture of the scene and the people. Home brewing, is it legal? Yes, you can brew up to 150 gallons of beer in a year per person or 200 gallons of beer if you have a family. Ruth said, "Let's get serious, you can brew as much as you want." According to her, unless you're selling it, no one is checking. After a brief history on beer we jumped right into beer and how to make it. Ruth went over all the basics I've been reading about - malt, hops, yeast, water, and sanitation. We talked about why and when you used each ingredient in the beer. We actually got to sample some of the liquid malt Don was using for the black IPA. The best part about the class was as we would go over something, Don would take us outside to show us what that step entailed. He was brewing the black IPA so we could see how home brewing is done. Of course we sampled a new beer during each step to make sure everyone stayed "hydrated". I had my notebook and took notes during the class. Some stuff was a repeat from the book, but I learned a good bit of stuff from the class that I did not cover in my book (so far).

Next, we went over equipment - from beginners to advanced brewers. The Porter House shop has a great selection of equipment and will even build you a custom kit. They sell 4 main kits at the shop ranging from basic to ultimate. The price range of these kits falls between $78.00 for a basic kit and $285.00 for the ultimate kit. I'll be buying one of the ultimate kits, which includes all the kegging equipment to keg the beer. All the other equipment/ingredients you will need: malt, hops, yeast, pots, carboys, sanitizers, hydrometers, brushes, and tubing can all be purchased at the shop as well - just in case you don't need a whole kit. Ruth and Don have a ton of recipe kits ready to go right there at the shop. They even offer call ahead service. If you need a certain kit, just give them a call, they'll put it together and you can pick it up that day. All the kits they sell have been brewed by either Ruth and Don so you know they are good.

I thought it was pretty funny going back and looking at the notes I took in the class. Most were readable and some were not. There was always a funny caption attached to the note I took. Soooo here's my top 10 for "Things I learned during home brewing class"

10. Don't use reverse osmosis water or distilled water - it F's the beer up
9. Don't use water from the sink - it sucks, smells bad, and has chlorine in it
8. You need a 24 quart stainless steel pot - why...Ruth knows best
7. Black canning pots are OK
6. 60 minute boils most common - don't brew unless you got time
5. If you want to add flavors in the beer aka fruit, candy - soak it in vodka before 2nd fermentation step
4. Don's black IPA is phenomenal
3. The brew shop smells really good
2. The kid behind me thinks he is running the brew class
1. Krausen is a sweet word - look it up

As you can see I started good - but was more interested in the hands on learning and the beers to keep taking notes. Luckily they gave us a cheat sheet of everything they were over, so my note taking could take a break.

Before I knew it, our 2 hours were up and I had to head to BC3 to watch Amanda win Miss Butler County. I'm not going to lie, this class was way more than I expected. From the beers and food, to the personal hands on training with Beth and Don, everything was great. This is my new brew shop, and they definitely won me over last night. I recommend this class to anyone interested in home brewing.The next brew class is on March 26th from 4:30 - 6:30 and it only costs $25.00. Trust me, you'll get your money's worth at this class.

Next Post - Mystery Post (rumors and here say)

No comments:

Post a Comment