Kensington: Home-Brewed Beer to Kick Off Spring

Local residents in Kensington had the chance to start spring by attending a home brewing workshop with Barry’s Homebrew, a outlet store located at 1447 N. American St. that specializes in helping people get started making their very own wine and beer.

The workshop was held at Greensgrow Farms, located at 2501 E. Cumberland St., this past weekend and the sunny March day was rivaled only by the ice cold homemade German beer provided by Barry’s Homebrew during the workshop.

It wasn't a large crowd, but those who attended were treated to lessons in home brewing and free samples.

Jimmy McMillan, who organized and ran the workshop, has been brewing his own beer for more than 12 years. He and his partner bought Barry’s in September, and are looking to get the word out about their store to anyone interested in turning their kitchen into a brewery.

“We make about 30 to 40 gallons per week at the store,” McMillan said. “We use dry hops and wet hops, as well as clone beers. If you come to Barry’s we can help you make your own recipe.”

McMillan said the home brewing kits start at $38 and range up to $50. Each comes with home-brewing necessities like the five-gallon beer tub and the hydrometer, which tests the alcohol level.

At the workshop, McMillan went through the steps to make a Caramel Belgian Whit, one of the store’s new kits. He covered all the equipment needed, the brewing and sanitation process, fermentation times and testing. McMillan also emphasized the importance of patience.

“Treat it like a tea, you have to let it sit,” McMillan said. “You also might not want to start drinking right when you start brewing. It takes a good amount of time and who wants to be drunk before clean up?”

“I love trying new beers but I don’t have much experience with homemade kits,” said Christian Suchecki, who heard about the workshop from a friend in Fishtown. “This is definitely a cool hobby to take up.”

McMillan added two bags of wheat extract because he was making a Caramel Belgian Whit.

After letting the grains sit in two and half gallons of water at 160 degrees, McMillan pulled the bags out and was ready to add the malt extract. He passed around different types of malted grains for people to taste, including malted barley and one that had the slightest hint of bacon.

“I have had a lot of different beers just working at Barry’s,” McMillan said. “Blueberry beer, pumpkin beer and even a mango IPA (India Pale Ale), where they sliced mango, froze it and added it during fermentation.”

The workshop, which came with a $20 donation fee that served as a donation towards the agricultural organization, continued with the addition of the hops and wheat extract to push the sugar up. McMillan said in order for the yeast to survive, after the hops are added, to cool it down to 80 degrees to avoid a nasty, sour beer.

After an hour boil, McMillan added another two and half gallons of cold water through it, which is the last step before fermentation begins, a process that will take two weeks before the beer is ready to be bottled.

Greensgrow Farms will have another outdoor farm stand on March 31, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and will be hosting a tool-sharpening workshop this Saturday afternoon. Barry’s Homebrew hosts brewing meetings every first and third Friday at 7 p.m., where people can share recipes and swap home brewed beers.