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Food

Fermenting an interest in beer

Lockport librarian home brews, presents educational programs

CREST HILL – Home brewing is 50 percent art and 50 percent science, said Scott Pointon.

The art portion consists of experimenting with flavors, said Pointon, of Crest Hill, a home brewer, director of the White Oak Library District and member of BOSS (Brewers of South Suburbia).

The science is the technical process to produce a quality beer. Pointon said he’s better at the second and tends to follow recipes – which, he feels, is perfectly acceptable.

“I just brewed my 130th batch of beer,” Pointon said, “and it’s all been drinkable.”

Since 2010, four years after Pointon started brewing, he’s given an average of two “You Can Brew It” presentations a month – the majority of them at public libraries. Most of his attendees are men between the ages of 20 and 50 – not the usual demographic who attends library programs, Pointon said.

What often amazes people is the relatively low cost of home-brewing.

Pointon said he made his first few batches on his kitchen stove with a prepared malt extract, an inexpensive 5-gallon pot and a couple plastic buckets.

“My whole starter kit cost me $120,” Pointon said.

Pointon’s website at youcanbrewit.webs.com lists his current equipment: a 10-gallon cooler for a mash tun (where the starches in grains are converted into sugars), a 5-gallon cooler for a hot liquor tank, a propane burner (in the garage) and – for a fermentation chamber – a temperature-controlled chest freezer.

A woodworker, Pointon built a three-tiered brewing stand in his garage to feed hot water into his containers. It works by gravity, he said. Pointon heats up the water. That goes into the first cooler, which feeds down into the cooler containing the mash, which trickles into the big brew kettles that boils the mixture.

Don’t like beer? Pointon doesn’t buy it.

The variety in beer is so wide – some people add fruit, spices and/or honey – that Pointon feels the trick is finding the flavor combination that’s certain to please, even if that means using unusual ingredients, such as strawberries or pumpkin pie spice, he said.

For himself, Pointon likes styles originating in England, Belgium and Scotland.

“The Trappist monasteries have some of the most renowned breweries in the world,” Pointon said.

Pointon’s interest goes back to the early 1990s, when a fellow college student brewed his own beer. That interest renewed itself in 2006, when Pointon learned another library employee was a home brewer.

“By 2010, the bug had bitten deep,” Pointon said.

How deep? Enough that Pointon’s website lists nearly 100 awards. Noteworthy is the silver medal from the Pro-Am competition as part of the Great American Beer Festival in 2012, he said.

“Only 30 home brewers in the world have that medal,” Pointon said. “It was very cool.”

Also in 2012, Pointon said he was named the Midwest Home Brewer of the Year. Three of Pointon’s beers will be brewed commercially this year, a direct result of winning three gold medals earlier this year at the BOSS Chicago Cup Challenge, Pointon said.

Any plans for opening a business? Pointon can’t envision it.

“Unless I retire in my early 60s and open a little pub on a beach somewhere,” Pointon said, “but I’m not actively planning anything.”

To prepare the award-winning Pointon’s Proper English Mild at home, visit www.homebrewersassociation.org/homebrew-recipe/big-brew-recipe-pointons-proper.

For information about BOSS, visit www.bossbeer.org.

KNOW MORE

• Beer has four basic ingredients: Water, grain, hops, yeast
• If you’re water tastes “off,” your beer will taste off.
• Using anything but the freshest ingredients will also produce an “off” beer
• The air is full of “wild” yeast that would love nothing better than to land in your beer and produce their own flavors. Good sanitation practices prevent it.
• Grains – malted barley is the predominant one - enhance the natural fermenting sugars and add their own sweetness.
• The flowers of hops plants – which resemble pine cones - counteract the sweetness with bitterness and serve as natural preservatives.
• Yeast are single cell organisms that eat natural sugar, produce alcohol and create carbon dioxide bubbles and gas. Fifty to 75 percent of the flavor in beer comes from yeast.
• Using kits is perfectly acceptable, especially for the first few batches. Kits are available for most regular styles of beer.
• Brewing takes about two hours. Double that time if you make your own mash.
• Mash is the steeping of grains in hot water to convert starches to sugar.
* Fermenting needs one to three weeks.
• Is it cheaper? It depends on what one currently pays for commercial beer and that varies by the brand. If one spends $10 for a six-pack of craft beer, home-brewing is definitely less expensive. Commercial breweries worry about “the bottom line,” less a concern for a home-brewer making a 5-gallon batches to share with family and friends.

Source: Scott Pointon

IF YOU GO

WHAT: “You Can Brew It”

WHEN: 6 p.m. Aug. 20

WHERE: White Oak Library District, Lockport Branch Library, 121 E. 8th St., Lockport

VISIT: youcanbrewit.webs.com

CALL: 815-351-9333

IF YOU GO

WHAT: “You Can Brew It”

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Aug. 28

WHERE: Shorewood-Troy Public Library, 650 Deerwood Dr., Shorewood

VISIT: youcanbrewit.webs.com

CALL: 815-351-9333

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