Last Friday, we took a train up to Truro and paid £5 each to spend the evening hanging out with other home brewers at an event organised by the Beer Cellar.
In what must be going on for ten years of making beer at home, we have never once taken the step of meeting up with other amateur brewers, though we’ve often thought about it. What held us back was the assumption that we would find a room full of blokes twenty years older than us, who knew more than us, and would want to make sure we knew it.
Approaching the Hub Boat – a half-renovated restaurant-cum-party barge moored on Lemon Quay in the centre of Truro – we were relieved to observe through the brightly illuminated picture windows that we wouldn’t be the youngest in attendance, and that the crowd was, though mostly male, not exclusively so.
Inside, we found two demonstrations by Granite Rock underway – mashing and brewing from extract – and a table full of bottles of home brew, to which we added the only brew we have ready(ish) to drink: a Belgian-style Tripel fermented with dried Witbier yeast procured as a back-up when a ‘proper’ yeast starter failed.
Joe from Penpont, the local brewery with connections to the Beer Cellar, was on hand to dish out samples of his ‘An Howl’, with and without dry-hopping, which helped loosen everyone up. Initial awkwardness passed fairly quickly, and we found ourselves talking hops, yeast and sparging techniques with other people who don’t think those are tragically boring topics for conversation.
Our beer was received politely but without enthusiasm by our fellow brewers, most of whom seemed to think it was a bit strong, but ‘interesting’. (Not very nice.) It isn’t, to be fair, our best effort. For our part, we were thankfully able to tell people to their faces without lying that we liked their beers. The best was probably a BrewDog Hardcore IPA clone which was exactly like Hardcore IPA.
One person probed for more detailed feedback, which we gave him, and then regretted, but then what’s the point in fibbing or being fibbed to?
As the evening went on, we identified a few sub-groups. Some were serious enough to have printed labels and a ‘brand’, and clearly intended to go pro at some point, while others had never brewed anything before and wanted to size up the hobby. In the middle were a bunch of keen amateurs like us.
Our favourite attendees, though, were the baby-faced contingent from Falmouth University’s nascent home brewing society. They’d made a technically very decent honey beer and seemed hungry for knowledge.
We’ll definitely go again, hopefully with more and better beer to share, and fewer social anxieties.