Glasgow Homebrew Club
"Where's Pete?" says Grant, sitting on the leather sofa nudged against the window of BrewDog Glasgow, thumb working the surface of his iPhone. Grant's wife, sat alongside him, shakes her head "We're not waiting for Pete – I've had to pour you into the car too often when he's around…" Instead, the phone screen changes from Pete's contact details to a beer label; a 7.5% IPA brewed by Grant for an album launch of his son's band. Like many BrewDog fans, Grant is a homebrewer – but he is also part of a community of likeminded souls that has sprung up in our Glasgow bar, meeting to swap tips. "It's an ideas forum," he says. "The bar is so relaxed, there's a great crowd here."
The BrewDog Glasgow homebrew club meets every Monday, informally, to swap recipes, ideas, and taste each other's creations. Dan has never brewed before, though, ever. "My favourite beer is Hardcore IPA," he says. "But maybe I should play it safe first, to get with the system. I should probably work up to it." His brewing guide is Grant (another Grant, unrelated to the first). Why does he homebrew? "There's nothing like it, when you open that first beer. The anticipation, the relief when it's good. I was always certain I was going to fail, but I've made some cracking beers."
Another homebrewer on the cusp is Sheena, who has worked through a selection of extract kits and just bottled her first all-grain recipe – an amber, hopped with Fuggles and Galena, then dry-hopped with more of the latter. "I condition it in my wardrobe – it helps control the temperature. It's like Narnia in there, but for beer!" What does she like about the crowd in the Glasgow bar? "You can walk in at any time and speak to someone. We're close-knit, but a friendly bunch - there's no snobbery here. When it comes to beer, we like the album tracks."
Eduardo has only just arrived in Scotland, having been here for seven months. He brews six litre batches in his hall of residence at the University. What does he do with it? "I take it to parties," he shrugs. "Feedback from the guys in my hall is good. From non-beer drinkers, it can be more helpful maybe. I come here to the homebrew club to also ask for advice. Hearing the truth hurts sometimes, but it helps." Why did he get into homebrewing? "I liked beer, sure, but I study engineering, I've always been interested in how things work. I like the mechanics of it, the process."
As a hobby, homebrewing seems to make people more open, more willing to discuss their beer-making. Duncan, an established all-grain homebrewer, agrees. "People want to show off to their mates, but for critical opinion. So many people have met because of the scene here at BrewDog Glasgow." What's his homebrewing philosophy? "I like to brew things that are different. Getting hold of ingredients is hard though, it forces you to be creative." Was there a gateway beer for him? "Punk. It was an eye-opener. I liked IPAs, tried Punk from a supermarket – it wasn't like any IPA I'd ever had before. I started seeking out fantastic beer as a result!"
Another full mash homebrewer is Chris, who has been putting beers together in his kitchen for five years. "I did one malt kit, then went straight to full mash. There's just more control over the process, when you make it from scratch. I used to have homebrew tastings at my house, but this is great here." Does he appreciate the feedback, even now? "Oh yes, some people are brutally honest. But it's all good. You think 'I've made those', and give advice when you can." He hands out samples of a Scotch Ale he's brewed, which is fantastic.
Homebrewing has a progression - a series of stages - and the guys at the Glasgow club cover the full spectrum. From those who are interested in making their first beer, to those taking the plunge from kits to all-grain, to those who have been designing their own labels for years. As a forum to share ideas and get feedback, everyone seems to agree it makes their homebrew better – whatever point they have reached.
If you brew your own beer, and are in the area on Monday evenings, head along and become a part of the Glasgow homebrewing community (unlike Pete, who never did turn up…)
Any other awesome homebrewer meetups we should check out?