For novice or expert, RAZE casts light on homebrewing (video)

LTS beer JM.jpg
Home brewers with Raze Brewing share samples of their own craft beer on Nov.18 at LTS Brewing Company.

Members of Rochester's homebrewing club, the Rochester Area Zymurgy Enthusiasts , or RAZE , share a bottle of habanero India Pale Ale(IPA) on a dreary November night.

It's good — delectably spicy and balanced, like a beer crafted by Ballast Point Brewing Co., a brewery that sold earlier that week for $1 billion.

Theirs might not be billion-dollar formulas, but a lot of the group's brews — from barrel-aged Belgian quadsto session IPAsto the habanero treat — are highly recommended to new members and revered by long-timers. It shouldn't come as a surprise; some RAZE members have been brewing for over 13 years.

But it wasn't always that way.

"I brewed once a month and it wasn't really good," Rich Tessleradmits when describing his first foray into homebrewing in 2002. The Internet was Tessler's guide back then, but there wasn't a lot of information online for someone looking to make good beer.


A short time later, Tessler discovered a local brewing group. Soon after he and a friend began attending meetings, the original group dispersed, leaving them to carry the torch.

"It's always been kind of a nebulous group," Tessler said.

RAZE has grown quite a bit since then. One catalyst in its growth was the number of breweries that have opened in Rochester this year, creating the perfect hangoutsfor a Wednesday-night meeting and beer-sampling.

"Since the breweries have opened, the meetings have really taken off in terms of attendance," said Brett Vermilyea, a three-year member of RAZE and assistant brewer at LTS Brewing Co. "It's enhanced that brewing culture."

Another positive catalyst for RAZE is the recent acquisition of liability insurance. It will allow the brewing club to host larger events, and even cover members if they brew using LTS's seven-barrel capacity brewing equipment — something LTS head brewer and co-founder Brandon Schulzis looking forward to.

"It supports one of the key missions that I have with the brewery: promoting the making of better beer," Schulz said.

While members love trying each other's beers, sharing knowledge seems to be an even more important part of RAZE.

"There's a lot of varied experience in the club, which is really nice," said Schulz, a member for about four years. Even he will ask for help from the group from time to time. "It's really a good, collaborative venue," he said.


Some group discussions may seem inaccessible to newbies, considering the amount of experience some members have when it comes to pitching yeast, mashing grain, and selecting hops for just the right aroma and bitterness.

However, Tessler is adamant that anyone can pick brewing up quickly.

"It's really not that hard to make beer," he said. "If you can make mac and cheese, you can make beer."

What is difficult? Trying to craft the perfect beer. Tessler thinks he's finally cracked the code with his IPAs, but there is always a yearning to create something just a bit better each time by modifying his recipes.

"That constant chasing of the beer you pictured you'd brew … you constantly tweak and you get there," Tessler said.

RAZE will help anyone interested in brewing get there too. Just expect to become totally absorbed in the hobby.


"In brewing, you meet awesome people and you get to use your creativity," Tessler said. And the best part of the group? "There's beer at the end," he said. "Beer is great, it's fun."

To become a member of the RAZE group visit its website , or connect via the Facebook page .

Home brewers with Raze Brewing share samples of their own craft beer on Nov.18 at LTS Brewing Company.

What To Read Next
Get Local