Home brewers flock together

sgilman@newsobserver.comFebruary 17, 2014 

Sampling a batch of home-brewed beer alone is not as fun as sharing it with friends.

At least that’s what the 30-some members of the new Clayton Area Homebrewers club think.

The club, formed in September by Josh Thompson and Deep River Brewing Company’s Paul and Lynn Auclair, meets the first Tuesday of every month to revel in new creations concocted by members.

Everyone, from beginners to expert brewers, is welcome to join the fun.

“It’s just people who like beer and like to brew,” Thompson said, adding, “We’re trying to grow the club, make it a little bit more formal.”

For its most recent meeting, the club met at Clayton Beverage Company, a venue for craft beer lovers in Clayton Corners shopping center.

Clayton resident Kisch Konold, wearing a bracelet made from a beer can, said her brewing habit began when her husband gave her a brewing kit for Christmas. She tried it, and “it just kind of went from there,” she said.

Konold said she is not “advanced enough” to brew from raw ingredients and still uses kits for her beers.

“I’m hoping this group will help me brew more often and get more excited about it,” she said.

For members like Konold, beer is a hobby. For Garner residents Nick and Stephanie Benner, it is an obsession.

“We call our garage ‘the brewery,’” Stephanie said with a laugh.

The Benners won best in show for the first quarter of the Carolina Quarterly Brew Off with their “Christmas in Belgium.” Their beer was a light brown Belgian dubbel brewed with figs, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice.

When they got into brewing, they never planned to go big, the Benners said.

“It started out as a really small hobby,” Nick said. But now it’s a “major hobby. It’s all I do.”

Nick said he was drawn in by a fascination with the chemistry that goes into brewing. As he started to learn more about how the process works, he began to experiment with ingredients and spices.

The Benners said the home-brew scene is a great place to gather and share ideas. “It’s the most collaborative, welcoming community you could ever imagine,” Stephanie said.

Another brewer drawn in by the chemistry of brewing is Clayton resident Alan Harvell. He maintains equipment in the chemistry department of N.C. State University and developed a curiosity for beer about five years ago after touring breweries in Raleigh. He loved the science behind it.

Like the Benners, Harvell’s passion for brewing started small. “I love it. It’s an obsession,” he said “It starts out small and keeps growing until you have a whole room full of equipment and ingredients.”

With a new brewery and new brewing-supply company in Clayton, Harvell said it will be more convenient to practice his hobby. “The beer-related stuff coming in, it’s nice,” he said. “You don’t have to drive all the way to Raleigh.”

The Clayton Area Homebrewers club has roots in April of last year, on the same day Deep River Brewing Company opened in Clayton. Thompson met the Auclairs for the first time and forged a friendship that later led to the club that exists today.

The Facebook page they started attracted many of their current members, and the Auclairs’ brewery serves as an additional platform for raising awareness for the club.

About 20 or 30 people attend the meetings, and Thompson said they’ve had even more people than that express interest in the club.

The club’s next meeting will be at 7 p.m. March 4 at Deep River Brewing Company, 700 W. Main St.

To find out more about the club, visit the Facebook page at facebook.com/ClaytonHomebrewers or email Thompson at clemtiger@gmail.com.

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