National Homebrew Day

A reason to celebrate

picture of the Hops 'N Paws Brew Club of Michigan on National Homebrew Day
Photo courtesy of Hops ‘n Paws Brew Club

On May 7th, 1988, the U.S. Congress declared the date as National Homebrew Day. This would become the official day on which homebrewers throughout the U.S., and now the world, would gather to celebrate the craft we all know and love. As we slowly transitioned back to normalcy, the first Saturday in May last year was shaping up to be a reassurance that all is not lost, that brewers will find each other again, and the clinking of pints will be as familiar as it once was. My wife, Amy, and I set out to host one such occasion for the Hops ‘n Paws Brew Club in southeast Michigan. After all, what is homebrewing if not the definition of a social hobby?

Our brew system in Belleville, Michigan, is a 3-kettle, HERMS built into a custom bar and patio area (see “A DIY Worth a Closer Look” found in the March-April 2021 issue) and while we love the control, it does make for the longest brew day from strike water to final cleanup. We began early at 8 a.m. preparing ingredients, crushing grain, and measuring salts. A crisp Kölsch was in store for the coming summer.

The 2nd system was a 15-gallon (57-L) E-BIAB (electric brew-in-a-bag) system piloted by Zak Machinchick, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was transported to our home the night prior. We snaked 240V power from an outbuilding over to the patio area using a series of RV (recreational vehicle) power cords (safety first!). Zak was 2nd to mash in and with the sun now shining at 10 a.m. it was shaping up to be a glorious brew day. Zak is a New England IPA lover, so a similar version of Old Nation Brewing Co.’s M43 was his recipe. 

Third on the list was a traditional BIAB, propane-fired system belonging to John Marshall hailing from Sumpter, Michigan. Using a single 20-gallon (76-L) kettle John is known for some interesting creations and at times going off the deep end with last-minute additions to spice things up. That day’s was a play on your senses: A deep, pink-colored IPA using pitaya powder.

We hope everyone will get out there with their own brewing implements and enjoy National Homebrew Day this year.

Fourth on stage was another traditional 20-gallon (76-L) BIAB, propane-fired system from Doug and Laura Smith from Ypsilanti, Michigan. This duo sports a deep obsession with the fundamentals of brewing (Doug has an insane collection of brewing books) and they are generally putting unique twists on traditional beers. That day’s brew was a Vanilla Pineapple IPA. 

Last to arrive was Dan Grohnke with his single kettle 15-gallon (57-L) propane-fired extract brew. Dan comes to us from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and is relatively new to brewing, but, as we all have learned, once you get into brewing it’s all downhill from there. Dan brewed a fruited wheat. He was last to get going at noon, and first to finish! Brewing with extract certainly makes brew day a lot shorter.

With the creative juices flowing, John came up with a brilliant idea — cider races! This game plots two teams against each other in a relay race to fill five gallons (19 L) of apple juice in a bucket with yeast. The fastest wins. The day was a complete success with seven active fermentations (five beer and two cider) as the fruit of our labor. Looking back, it was a reminder of how homebrewing goes beyond the creation of beer and celebrates the diversity and inclusion of people from all over, uniting under a common banner of a pastime never forgotten. We hope everyone will get out there with their own brewing implements and enjoy National Homebrew Day this year. Cheers to many more! 

Issue: May-June 2023