Home brewing has always been a thing, happening long before commercial production, craft brewing and all the other hoopla. With as many beer choices as we have in Central Oregon, you might think a beer lover wouldn't need to brew at home—but they do, for multiple reasons.
Home brewing can be a hobby, but it can also turn into a business. Many breweries in town, including Bridge 99 Brewing and Oblivion Brewing Company, were started by home brewers, so you never know where that interest will lead you.
Here's what a few home brewers had to say about their favorite hobby.
Mike Dugan, brewing since 2011
How he got into it: I was inspired by my son who was brewing beer in college. Since I started I've tried to brew once a month. I just completed my 78th brew.
What he wishes someone would have told him when he first started: You learn a little every time you brew. If someone would have told me 25 years ago how easy it was I would have done it then. If you can boil water, you can brew beer.
Why he keeps brewing: It's fun, I like to drink it, and I'm retired so I have the time. I can get it from start to the carboy and cleaned up in just under four hours. I get a kick when people drink it and tell me how good it is.
Tim Koester, brewing since 2002
How he got into it: A neighbor was brewing, and I hung out and watched him and was interested. We brewed together for a while and then I bought my own equipment.
Tips for new brewers: Many new brewers get discouraged because they get a bad batch, but it's easy to make good beer as long as you follow good sanitation processes.
Why he keeps brewing: It's a very creative process, I can design my own recipes. I get to share my results with friends and family and enjoy my effort. There are so many fun aspects to the hobby.
Adam Mendel, brewing since 2012
How he got into it: I love beer so when my friend Dave mentioned that he also wanted to give home brewing a shot we took a trip to The Brew Shop and split a beginner's kit.
Tips for new brewers: Less is more. Start with simple recipes and perfect them. Learn what your ingredients taste and smell like. You can add a million ingredients, but it doesn't necessarily mean a superior beer. One of the best beers I've ever brewed was a simple single-malt, single-hop IPA, but I nailed all of the steps and it was a real champ.
Why he keeps brewing: Fun. I love the technical aspects, the chemistry and the rhythm of the brew session. Of course, I also like having a good excuse to have an afternoon beer while I watch the boil kettle roll.
What it takes to be a home brewer: To find out how to become a home brewer I asked Jeff Hawes, co-owner of The Brew Shop in Bend. "For under $250 you can get started," he said. "We have the equipment and 10 different home brewing kits to make 5 gallons of beer." Five gallons of beer is equivalent to nine six packs. Hawes also has advice for a first-time brewer. Like Koester, he said, "sanitization is the number one thing. If you make it through that you get a decent beer."
New brewers can find support and camaraderie at the Central Oregon Homebrewers Organization.
They meet twice a month, on the third Wednesday, for a regular meeting, and the first weekend for a group brew at a member's home. Koester, a COHO member, said the group brew is a "hands-on opportunity to learn new techniques, and learn from other members. You watch a batch of beer being made and everyone stands around and asks questions." Koester said the group has grown a lot in the last eight years and currently has around 100 members. Anyone is welcome to attend a meeting. If you like it, you can join. Membership is $30 a year.
Central Oregon Homebrewers Organization