Proving Resilience: A 10-year-old takes up homebrewing

As we have reported in two previous issues of Brew Your Own magazine, the Camp Fire of 2018 devastated several towns in Butte County, California and charred almost 240 sq. miles (62,000 ha). In response, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company initiated the Butte County Resilience relief effort to raise money for those affected by the fire. In all, over 2,000 breweries, multiple brewing supply wholesalers, and countless homebrewers took part in the money-raising effort. In the midst of the greater story, we found Owen Shore, a ten-year-old kid who wanted to help out. He did so by brewing a batch of Resilience IPA with his mom and they auctioned the beer to friends and family. All of the money they raised went towards the relief effort, $462 from the first batch alone. So we tracked down the Shores with the help of David Little of the North Valley Community Foundation, one of the leading organizations spearheading the relief effort, and interviewed Owen and his mom, Patti.

young Owen Shore and his filled carboys of Resilience IPA
Photo courtesy of Patti Shore

How did you first hear about the Resilience IPA and the relief fund efforts?
Patti: I think the news — it was broadly publicized where we lived.

Have you folks had friends or family affected by these fires?
Patti: My cousin and her family lost their home to the Tubbs Fire in the North Bay in 2017. For the Camp Fire in 2018 in Paradise located in Butte County – I had cousins, uncles, aunts, and a 100-year-old grandma (Owen’s great grandma) all of whom live in Oroville, and many more family members who used to live in Oroville. Oroville didn’t burn but many Paradise evacuees went there, and it was quite close to Paradise, so we were following the news closely too.

Was this your first time homebrewing?
Patti: No, this was Owen’s third time. His first batch was Blind Pig IPA in August 2018. That was so popular with friends and family that he did a second batch in the fall.

Any troubles that you ran into along the beer production/packaging way?
Patti: With our first two batches, we learned it took a l-o-n-g time for the wort to cool. We were pretty excited when a friend gave us a wort chiller, which really sped up the process, and plus Owen got to learn about heat transfer (this whole beer brewing thing is just a hugely extended science experiment). With Resilience, the end product came out a little over-carbonated — it foamed a lot, so we had to tell people to open it in the sink and pour it carefully into a chilled glass. It still tasted delicious. We’re not sure how we over-carbonated the beer. Also, we used whole hops for that batch, and discovered that it is REALLY hard to dry hop with whole hops into the narrow bottleneck of a carboy! Finally, Owen’s dad, Dan, did not like the state of the kitchen after Owen and I were done with the boil. So, for Christmas, he got Owen an outdoor burner that we can connect to our natural gas line. We are meant to brew in the great outdoors!

He has also taken orders for a second batch of Resilience, and we’ll do that one after the Belgian ale.

What feedback have you received from people who have tasted the beer you brewed?
Patti: People seem to love it. We (the adults) taste it first just to make sure something terrible didn’t happen before Owen (with his mother) distributes it.
Owen: Some people thought I was too young to brew.

Do you expect you will every brew beer again?
Patti: Owen used his Christmas Visa gift cards to buy everything he needs to do a batch of Belgian ale, which we are calling Saelens Fine Belgian Ale. Because the same friend who gave us the wort chiller also gave us 5 boxes of 16-oz (473-mL) bottles, we’ll put that into pounders. He has also taken orders for a second batch of Resilience, and we’ll do that one after the Belgian ale. Yes, the money from Batch #2 of Resilience will again be donated to North Valley Community Foundation.

We’re in Vermont and have read your story . . . what has the publicity been like since that first story on your homebrewing ran?
I had to hire my friends as bodyguards to protect me from the people mobbing me.
From me (his mom, and apparent press secretary) — it’s been pretty fun. The Marin IJ did a great article – Matthew Pera interviewed Owen at the climbing gym before his after-school rock climbing club. Then we found out that the local Redding ABC affiliate had aired the story on TV, and then KCBS radio did an interview. I think Owen’s enjoying the notoriety.

Follow up to that…any celebrities or breweries reached out to you after hearing about your efforts?
Patti: No celebrities, but we heard from someone at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Marin Brewing Company has offered a tour, and a friend is arranging something similar at Fort Point Brewing. I have a good friend at East Brother Brewing in Richmond CA who’d offered a tour prior to the Resilience

Anything else you’d want to say about the whole experience and what you learned from it?
: I learned about fermentation.

Issue: July-August 2019