Having a blog that at times features all kinds of local events in the NYC area, along with many terrific spots to drink and dine at, does open up the door to some pretty awesome opportunities that I have been approached with. One that I just could not pass up was the chance to learn how to brew my own beer! Mmmm….beeeeer. Now, since I am such a fan of beer, this was right up my alley. How could I resist? I was going to learn how to make my own beer! I always wanted to try home brewing and become a brewmaster. Yay beer!
I was contacted by Vimbly, which is a website that offers all types of classes and activities, usually with a nominal fee, and some are even free! Classes ranging from archery to pizza making to ballroom dancing to specialized city tours, and many more. They asked me if I was interested in coming by to check out a beer brewing class in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn on Friday night. They were courteous and generously offered me two seats so my gal and I could attend and make a fun date night out of it. Brooklyn has such an entrepreneurial spirit to it that the place itself, a wonderful shop called Bitter & Esters, is a perfect fit for the area. This little brew supply shop carries everything the home brewer would need to become proficient in whipping up delicious craft beers, and runs classes to teach the beginner level person (such as myself) to the expert experienced brewer.
As we walked into the shop we were greeted by the friendly staff who signed us in and got the ball rolling by handing us both a pint of freshly brewed beer! It was delicious and were told it was called “Doctor Feelgood”. Perfectly named I must say. It was brewed by a previous group that had taken a class there a few weeks earlier. Now this really whet my appetite to brew my own beer at home! Yet, that might be a dangerous thing. I started to envision myself as a mad scientist with a white coat and goggles experimenting with a full lab set up in our apartment like Dr. Frankenstein!
One would think that Bitter & Esters would have a funky aroma about it as I have worked at bars in the past and the work areas can become quite pungent. Not at all the case here. The shop had a fresh, clean smell to it. Was bright, well organized, and well stocked. They even sold some “beer soap” products that we purchased on the way out to give as gifts. On the board behind the main desk was an impressive list of hops and grains to purchase. They pretty much have everything you need here, and even gave out some discount coupons to use on our first purchase. Bonus!
The class itself ran for almost three hours this evening, but was well worth the time. I do have to admit that home brewing is not as easy as I thought. There is a lot involved, and it takes up to four weeks to taste your first batch as you wait for it to ferment. Those of us living in small apartments will have to find space to set up the equipment, and then store the bucket of beer as it ferments in a cool dry spot, along with the bit of messiness your work area will become as you perform the steps to the recipe. I think most of us can do it as it’s not that hard and just have to pay attention to all the steps. You need to make the space and allocate the time for it. Plus, the guys at Bitter & Esters will happily help out with any questions along the way. Having a support system of brewing knowledge is a big plus to those brew newbies such as myself. It’s a learn as you go process, and can be hit or miss along the way, but very rewarding when you get good at it.
Our instructor for the night, and head beer dude, was John La Polla, who is one of the owners of Bitter & Esters. He was a great teacher, very funny, informative, and engaging. He kept the three-hour workshop lively and fast paced. He educated us on so many beer facts and history. You can tell he truly loves what he does and beer brewing is in his blood. He even let many of us become involved with some hands-on participation. Mid way through the class he noticed our pint glasses were empty, so we took a break and they offered us another brew from a different batch. Just as good as the first! Man, if home brewing comes out this good I really want to learn this stuff!
He showed us all the steps. How to boil and cool the wort, add in ingredients such as hops, brewing times, tools, equipment, and sanitization techniques for home brewing. He let us smell and taste many of the ingredients. Along the way he told us stories of his past brewing experiences and those of some of his past students, from the tasty brews to those that tasted like bleach. Yup, it’s all about how you sanitize the equipment folks. He told us what to use and what to avoid. One little thing done wrong can ruin a whole batch of beer. What a letdown that woud be after awaiting anxiously for fours weeks of fermenting! We surely had a better undertanding of the whole brewing process after this class. Even afterwards we hung out with John and chatted a bit, and he was more than happy to answer all of our questions. He showed us some of the home brewing kits he put together that they sell here. At around $100 it’s reasonably priced and you get all you need to start your home brewing adventure!
If living in the NYC/Brooklyn area I would definitely recommend Bitter & Esters to anyone who has ever thought about home brewing. All beer lovers from those who drink basic mass produced beer (Bud/Coors/Miller) to those who are craft beer connoisseurs would be both impressed and entertained by a visit here. Who knows? One of us might become the next big brewmaster and make a fortune!
Check out Vimbly.com for some fun date ideas and activities such as this.
Vimbly – http://www.vimbly.com/nyc
Bitter & Esters –
700 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 11238
Tuesday through Sunday (12PM-8PM)