What’s Brewing at Honolulu’s Homebrewers Clubs
Field Notes explores Honolulu’s vast and varied scenes and subcultures. This month: homebrewing clubs.
Photos: Aaron Yoshino
WHAT THEY DO
At Oahu’s two beer homebrewing clubs, local homebrewers get together to compare notes, drink each other’s homemade beer and geek out on zymurgy, as the fermentation arts are known.
Homebrewers on Pacific Shores
Homebrewers On Pacific Shores, or HOPS, is the Island’s largest homebrewing club, with an email list of about 300. Anywhere from 15 to 40 people typically show up for the monthly meetings, which are held at members’ homes or, sometimes, at local brew pubs. Meetings feature a brief presentation on a topic of interest—gadgets, recipes, hop styles, sterilization techniques—followed by a couple hours of “tasting,” as the beer-drinking part of the evening is called.
Cindy Goldstein, a homebrewer as well as a beer judge at national beer competitions, presides over HOPS meetings and offers critical assessments of the homebrews that members bring. She is a constructive critic who tries to find something good to say about everybody’s beer. Still, contamination is an ever-present risk in beer making. And occasionally, instead of dumping a bad batch, a homebrewer will try to put a happy face on it. “There are Belgian beers that are supposed to be sour, and they’re very popular these days,” Goldstein says. “But it’s not OK to pass off a contaminated beer as a Belgian sour if it’s not.”
West Oahu Brewers Club
Also known as the Makakilo Brew Crew, the West Oahu Brewers Club gets together once a month to jointly brew a batch—or more—of beer. It is a HOPS splinter group, whose founding members tired of traveling long distances to get to HOPS meetings, then having to find their way home after hours of beer tasting.
The club meets at the Kapolei home of Kevin Maley, a disabled vet who flies a beer flag beneath the U.S. flag over his home whenever he’s making beer, which is often. “I can’t drive, so I stay home to take care of the critters and brew beer,” he says.
Brew Crew meetings can draw anywhere from three to 40 members. Participants work together to brew that month’s batch of beer, while imbibing the beer from previous meetings. They also play games, such as beer pong, they barbecue, and they watch a lot of football. “It’s a real party atmosphere,” Maley says.
The beers they brew can range from traditional India Pale Ales to experimental concoctions made with unusual ingredients. At one meeting, the club brewed three variations on a bacon-and-maple theme. One batch used real bacon and 100 percent maple syrup, another used real bacon and maple extract, and the third used packaged bacon bits and artificial maple syrup. “The real bacon and maple syrup was definitely the best,” Maley recalls. “Not surprisingly.”
Before beer is beer, it’s wort (pronounced wert), or malted grains, hops and water.
A glass container, ranging in size from one to six gallons, used for fermenting wort.
To seal wort in a carboy, or other container, for fermentation.
Acronym homebrewers employ when other homebrewers look stressed. It means, “Relax. Don’t worry. Have a home brew.”
HOMEBREW WARDROBE MALFUNCTION
A woman walked into Homebrew in Paradise, Oahu’s only homebrew supply store, and confronted the owner, Mike Smith. “She just started screaming at me, telling me I was going to pay to clean her clothes,” Smith recalls. Later, one of Smith’s customers came in, asking if his wife had been there. “I don’t know, but a woman came in to scream at me,” Smith said. “That was her,” said the man, who explained that he had put a bucket of beer in his wife’s closet to ferment for a few weeks. But the airlock on the bucket clogged, causing pressure to build until the bucket exploded, soaking the woman’s clothing with fermenting beer. “I never saw that guy again,” Smith says.