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Brew your own sites sprouting

Amateur beer-makers use the copper-jacketed kettles at Hopster’s in Newton to make their own brews.Essdras M Suarez/ Globe Staff)/Globe Staff

Jonathan Delatizky raised the bottle to his lips, sipped, paused as he tasted, then sipped again.

“It’s really nice,” he said, passing the unlabeled brown bottle to his daughter Bethea, who proceeded with the same taste test.

She nodded. “I’m quite pleased.”

It was their family’s first experience brewing beer (in this case an India pale ale), but it wasn’t in their kitchen or basement. It was at Hopster’s Brew & Boards in Newton, one of the area’s most recent entrants in the burgeoning brew-on-site concept.

“I’d been talking about maybe trying some home brew — this is easier than doing it at home,” said Delatizky, a software engineer from Newton. “Someone tells you what to do, which for the first time is a good thing.”


Brew-your-own (both at home and on-site) is being spurred by the immense growth in microbreweries and craft beers.

Riding that trend, Hopster’s, which describes itself as a “community brewery,” opened on Centre Street at the end of September, supported by a $40,000 Kickstarter campaign. It joins locals Barleycorn’s of Natick and Deja Brew in Shrewsbury, as well as IncrediBREW in Nashua.

“There’s a great deal of buzz with craft beers,” said Dan Eng, owner of Barleycorn’s, which opened in 1998 and offers about 120 recipes for customers to brew. “People are discovering all the different types, different flavors, getting away from mainstream lagers.”

According to a report by San Francisco-based Demeter Group, the craft beer market grew by 13.9 percent between 2009 and 2011, while the market for premium beers (such as Budweiser and Coors Light) fell by 2.3 percent .

Although in the past, mass producers like Budweiser were able to convince people that beer was best in a pale lager, Eng noted, consumer tastes have expanded, and “people are exploring all the different options.”


Hopster’s owner Lee Cooper agreed, describing the current trend as the “wine-ification” of craft beer, with the goal to be “innovative and push boundaries.”

And while home brewing has grown right along with the craft industry, it can be an expensive and complicated endeavor. Brew-on-site, on the other hand, gives people that do-it-yourself experience without having to invest in all the equipment and ingredients, he said.

Formerly in financial services, Cooper hails from Liverpool, where pubs are plentiful. He’s a passionate aficionado — along with his wife, Karen — and he began brewing at home before opening Hopster’s.

“I grew up surrounded by beer,” he said. “It’s very much a part of the culture in England.”

And the Boston area is becoming that way, as well; he called it a “beer climate” that Hopster’s hopes to foster.

Brew-on-site customers book a kettle (or kettles — up to 10 — depending on how much they want to make), then go through a process that Cooper describes as “a little bit of science and a lot of art.”

Choosing from among 30 recipes, they select specialty grains from an ingredients room, then measure, weigh, and grind them.

“It has a biscuit-y smell,” Cooper pointed out as he prepared grains for an India pale ale on a recent evening.

The room around him was filled with plastic dispensers of grains — anything from corn flakes to coffee malt — as well as mesh bags full of hops, and large blue barrels of liquid malt extract.


Hopster’s gets its ingredients from the Wood Family Farm in Dudley, and in a process that comes full circle, the spent grain from beer-making is fed to the farm’s livestock.

Amateur brewers boil the wort (a liquid extract containing sugars that will ferment) in the copper-jacketed kettles, and add hops and grains. They then cool the liquid in a heat exchanger, transfer it to a 15-gallon oak barrel, add yeast, and, finally, let it cool further to 35 degrees and ferment for roughly two weeks.

After that, they bottle it.

“The last thing, really, is to drink it,” Cooper said.

Per-kettle pricing ranges from $150 to $200, depending on the beer. Hopster’s “99 club” will also allow groups to come in every three months to go even further into the process and experience mashing – essentially the first step of crafting beer, by liquefying the starches in the kernels of the malted grain.

“It really gives them the full brewer’s experience,” Cooper said from his seat on a leather couch by the pub’s entrance, Centre Street traffic whooshing outside.

All told, “it’s self-directed learning. It’s really just to have fun, experience the process.”

Across the room sat the 10 kettles, lined up under bright lights. A large mural nearby depicted an overlaying graph of beer bitterness (ranked 0 to 80) and color (0 to 40-plus).

In a back corner, Delatizky and his daughter were busy bottling their brew, made 12 days earlier.


Bethea took photos with her phone as her father loaded brown bottles, one by one, into a bottling machine. They capped the full bottles, then loaded them into cardboard cases.

“I’m excited to have made this, to drink it, to hopefully have it be awesome,” Bethea Delatizky, who lives in Brighton, said just a few moments before taking her first satisfying sip. “We’ll give some of it away, unless it turns out to be awful.”

Popular as brew-your-own is, her apprehensions are common, noted Eng of Barleycorn’s.

“People are often surprised at the quality of the product they’ve made,” he said. “People associate something you’ve made yourself as inferior, when in fact it can be just as good, if not better, than something you purchase commercially.”

Taryn Plumb can be reached at