NEWTON — Many beer lovers have carved out a piece of the basement or kitchen pantry to make home brews, but if you haven’t got the space or patience, two local establishments are here to help. You simply book a beer-brewing session, choose a recipe, and brew on site.
Hopsters in Newton and Barleycorn’s in Natick are geared toward both novices and more experienced home brewers. Pricing varies depending on the beer — $150 to $200 a session, which includes ingredients, bottles, and brew time, and nets you about three cases. Hopsters offers a 30-recipe menu, Barleycorn’s 130, with everything from sun-dried tomato pale ale to an American coconut porter. After you brew, you leave your precious cargo in the hands of the experts, then return a couple weeks later to bottle and label it.
“You’re not expected to be a hipster and know everything about beer,” says Hopsters owner Lee Cooper, who opened the shop is Newton Corner two months ago. “We exist predominantly to create craft awareness.”
On a recent Thursday night, Cooper hosted a group of 30-something co-workers brewing three batches of beer and a group of Newton dads bottling theirs. Only one of the group brewing that night had made beer before. The group decided to go off-menu and brew a bock as one of three selections; Lee is accommodating. There’s an early frenzy gathering ingredients: Hops are pulled from a large refrigerator, grains from large plastic bins like the cereal dispensers in a college dining hall. “It gets a little messy,” says head brewer Josh Bousquet, who walks by with his hands covered in gooey extract.
The dads — a lawyer, architect, hedge fund manager, finance professor, and real estate developer — brew a batch each year for the holiday and divide up their three batches. The advantages to this venue instead of their own basements? “There’s no mess,” says Ed DeNoble. “No wives upstairs. We get to leave.”
Homebrewing has been legal in this country since 1978. The American Homebrewers Association boasts 35,000 members and estimates that 1.3 million Americans brew a batch of beer themselves each year. Today, an individual is legally allowed to brew 100 gallons a year, or 200 gallons for a family. Cooper doesn’t envision these limits being a problem. He’s had success bringing in corporate groups and others making beer for charity events. Eventually, he plans to open a full bar with 30 taps on site. Hopsters offers a food menu featuring charcuterie and flatbread pizza, so the newly minted brewsters can order nibbles while they work.
Barleycorn’s, with a bare space and no food, opened in 1998, is geared more to the hardcore brewer. You also take home more beer — five to six cases — for a similar price. When Barleycorn’s opened in 1998, the craft beer movement was just taking shape. “The buzz has most definitely spiked these past few years” says Barleycorn’s president Daniel C. Eng.
Both operations sell retail homebrewing supplies. Each also guarantees that if you choose to brew, you’ll walk away relatively satisfied.
“You can almost guarantee you get a quality product,” says Bousqet, the Hopsters brewer. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, you made it yourself’ and that’s it.”