Coronavirus quarantine has some Rochesterites bored to cheers.
New home-brewer Monique Sledd brewed her first beer — an IPA — two weeks ago. Sledd’s second batch, which she’ll begin brewing this weekend, is an Irish Red.
“I actually got my starter kit from my wife for our one-year anniversary, and the extract kit she got me was an IPA because she knows those are my favorite,” she said. “I just love how they smell — they’re hoppy and usually pretty assertive and aggressive in their overall taste and profile, and aroma. And so I wanted to try something that was going to come out with a bang for my first one.”
Last weekend, Sledd brewed the IPA. This weekend, the yeast from that IPA will ferment, make alcohol, and develop its taste — and move from the first fermenter to the second, as Sledd’s second beer goes into the first. In another week, the IPA will go into bottles to carbonate — and it’ll be ready to taste on Aug. 29.
“It’s a lot of trial and error,” she said. “And it’s teaching me the virtue of patience.”
She’d considered home-brewing well beforehand, though, “as a hobby, but also to see something from start to finish.”
“My full-time job is a mental health therapist, so it’s a lot of beginnings and ends, but I don’t often get to see the full process,” she said. “It’s a lot of talking to folks and then hoping things work out well as we’re talking through things.”
The Little Thistle job, learning from co-owner Steve Finnie, was a way to learn the ins and outs of the craft.
“It’s been something that’s been a passion,” she said. “I think I’m putting his skills to good use.”
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Stuck (and brewing) at home
Home-brewer Herb Hanson expanded his setup in April and May — six weeks of paternal leave for his newborn meant he had plenty of time to get well into a new hobby.
Both Hanson and Sledd began home-brewing largely because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I was looking for hobbies that would keep my attention,” Sledd said. “Gardening was one — I’m actually growing hops in my yard.”
Those hops won’t be usable this year, but next year, when they’re more potent, she should be able to “wet-hop.”
“I have a lot of free time,” she said. “And a lot of vacations got canceled, so why not do something cool that I can share with other people?”
Hanson uses extract kits, mainly from Northwest Liquor, to keep the cost of home-brewing reasonable, in case his home-brewing hobby only lasts for the pandemic. Hanson has a Hefeweizen-style beer brewing at the moment, with four other beers aging in his cellar.
“I feel I’m at a good level,” he said. “My setup’s good … maybe it’s not home-brewing in its purest form, but there’s very little difference in the final product.”
There’s a lot of gear that goes into even the lowest-effort foray into home-brewing, both found.
“I feel like COVID is helping that — I’m at home looking at stuff online; I just keep ordering,” Sledd said. “I’m thinking of getting a kegerator — as much as I want to bottle things, it would be easier to have a couple of kegs on hand in the fridge.”
At some point, she hopes to have kegs “on tap” at home to share with guests — as soon as social distancing allows.
“I have lots of big dreams for this brewhouse, which is really teeny-tiny so far,” she said.