Creativity on a smaller scale, but just as enjoyable.
With the restrictions on homebrewing being lifted in the United States back in 1978, brewing in the comfort of your own home has increasingly boomed in popularity since its legalization. What could be better than creating whatever style of beer you want at any point in time?
According to the American Homebrewers Association, over 1.2 million people in the United States brew their own beer at home. Jacksonville is not only a city made up of accomplished production breweries, but it has also made its mark within the homebrewing world. Some view this as a hobby, while others think of it as more of lifestyle.
The Cowford Ale Sharing Klub (CASK) is the homebrew club here in Jacksonville, and is one of the largest and most established throughout Florida. On a volunteer basis, you can hangout with hundreds of your closest friends and share the ingredients, ideas and adventures of homebrewing. The organization’s mission statement is to, “promote the art and enjoyment of handcrafted brewing and to further promote the hobby by introducing new people to the art and enjoyment in the production of the many varieties of beer, ales, wine and meads available to the homebrewer.” Since the creation of the club in 2006, it has grown tremendously. The club currently holds around 250 members — and very talented ones at that.
David Rigdon is the current president of CASK and a passionate homebrewer. “I think homebrewing provides something different to each of us,” Rigdon said. “In my case, I like finding recipes that I think are interesting, and then try to tweak them a little by adding or swapping out some ingredients to see how they will affect the overall taste.” Mixing different ingredients and experimenting with flavors gives infinite opportunities for homebrewers to test their pallets.
The skill and technique of the local homebrew population in Jacksonville is shown through the award-winning product they generate. Each year, CASK hosts a large homebrew competition called, First Coast Cup. Homebrew members from across Florida are invited to enter their creations to be judged under the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) guidelines. This year, CASK members dominated the competition, and have now taken a lead in the Florida Circuit Standings. These standings are a state club ranking based on a point system for the number of medals a club earns in state homebrew competitions throughout the year.
Gary Solomon is an employee at Just Brew It and an active CASK member. “Brewing to me is very artistic,” Solomon said. “You have the ability to create something very unique. You start with a blank canvas [water] and from there your only limitation is the depth of your imagination.” Others, like Solomon, enjoy the endless creative power that homebrewing allows for.
That creative power may eventually lead to larger scale brewing. Many craft brewers, including many here in North Florida, have opened up breweries across the country as a result of homebrewing. Not only did they already understand how the brewing process worked, but they also got comfortable with the ingredients and their unique properties.
If you’re looking to get into the hobby, the best way is to walk into your local homebrew store. Jacksonville’s own, “Just Brew It,” has three different locations and a friendly staff that will help you get started. Another option is to simply join CASK. There, you will meet a large group of people who all share the same passion, and are very willing to help beginners learn the trait. If you don’t want to purchase your own equipment, Engine 15 will also allow you to brew a batch of your very own beer using their equipment. With three different tiers, ranging from $98 to $155, you can brew several different styles under the careful watch of a trained brewer.
Whichever way you choose to brew, if you love beer, you will love this hobby. Homebrewing is rewarding, innovative, and a definite good time.