Do you homebrew?
Peoples Pint assistant brewer Ryan Richards and head brewer Chris Sellers will be giving a home brew demo to make beer in a carboy, as opposed to 500 gallon stainless steel containers behind them.
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Brewer Chris Sellers in the Peoples Pint Brewery cooler. Purchase photo reprints »
Peoples Pint assistant brewer Ryan Richards adds a hops mixture to the kettle at the Hope Street brewery.
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Peoples Pint head Brewer Chris Sellers takes spent grains out of the mash tun that are destined for a local farmers pigs.
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Whether you’re thinking about brewing your own beer, have a few batches under your belt and want some expert advice, or just enjoy beer and want to know how it’s made, check out this month’s Tuesday Night Forum at the Dickinson Memorial Library, 115 Main St., Northfield.
At 6:30 p.m. Oct. 30, the library will be transformed into a brewery for two hours. People’s Pint’s head brewer Chris Sellers and assistant brewer Ryan Richards will revisit their home-brewing roots and demonstrate the beer-making process.
They’ll have to scale things back a bit from what they’re used to. At the People’s Pint’s Hope Street brewery, they brew 500-gallon batches. They’ll move the decimal left a couple places, and prepare a standard five-gallon batch of homemade beer.
“It will be a bit like a cooking show,” said Sellers. “We’ll have some pre-made beer to sample and a couple batches at different stages, to show the steps of the process.”
“It will be really informative for people who’ve never brewed before,” said Sellers. “We’ll explore some territory that even the experienced home-brewer may not be familiar with.”
He’ll cover the basics — the ingredients and styles of beer, the brewing process and even delve into the science of beer.
He’s done brewing talks before, and said he enjoys the diverse crowd that shows up, from curious would-be brewers, to seasoned homebrewers who want to pick his brain, to people who know the science of brewing and want to talk about the chemistry of the process.
“Sometimes, we’ll try to out-nerd each other on brewing chemistry,” said Sellers. “Usually, I lose.”
What’s on tap?
“It’s a totally new beer, one we’ve never commercially produced,” Sellers said.
He used chocolate and roasted barley malts for the dark, unnamed brew made in the style of a porter ale.
Before he lets participants taste the finished product, Sellers will pass out samples of the malts for people to try.
“I want to show what the different kinds of malts do to the beer,” explained Sellers. Dark beers like porters and stouts tend to have a more malty flavor, one of the reasons he chose a porter for the demonstration.
With about a decade of brewing experience, Sellers said he can pick out the flavors in different beers and enjoys figuring out what ingredients were used.
The other reason is the season. Sellers said porters go well with the brisk fall weather.
Ales have a quick turnaround compared to lager-style beers; they can be ready to drink in as little as three weeks. This is because the yeasts used do best at room temperature, said Richards. Lager yeasts do better in colder environments and can be a bit sluggish outside of their comfort zone.
Don’t like dark beer? Pale ales are also beginner-friendly and mature quickly.
These quick-to-brew beers can help your learning curve. Though master brewers like Sellers have a good idea of what their brew will taste like based on its ingredients, the amateur will likely learn through trial-and-error.
Besides the obvious differences between home and commercial brewing, like batch sizes and scale of equipment used, there are some more subtle differences.
Home brewers have more room for error, said Sellers.
“People have been drinking our Pied pIPA and Farmer Brown beers for years,” he said. He’s got to keep those and other brews consistent — if they’re a little off, loyal customers will notice.
“If you make a mistake in your home brew, it’s still beer and you can still drink it,” he said. “It’s hard to screw up too badly.”
If you do botch a batch, it’s five gallons, rather than 500, and your friends probably won’t demand a refund.
Which brings us to another difference.
Home brewers can’t sell their beer, at least not legally. So, don’t expect to get rich off your home brew, no matter how good it is.
You can, however, give it away, trade it with other brewers, or use it to bribe friends to help you move. Just make sure they’re 21.
Federal law allows each home brewer to make up to 100 gallons of beer per year — that’s enough to fill 1,066 12-ounce bottles.
What do you need?
As far as equipment goes, it’s relatively simple to get started; you may even already have a few of the items in your kitchen.
A five-plus gallon stock pot can be used to boil ingredients. Fermentation can be done in food-quality plastic buckets or a large glass brewing jug called a carboy. Both types of fermenter use air locks — a small chamber that allows gases to escape while also keeping out unwanted particles and gases.
You’ll need a food-grade length of syphon hose to transfer your brew between fermenters or into bottles. Strainers and colanders are also handy.
Used pop-top style bottles can be collected, cleaned, and re-used for your own brew. Screw-top bottles should be avoided, as they are harder to seal.
You’ll need a bottle capper, too. They come in several styles and prices.
As far as ingredients, that will depend on what kind of beer you’re making, as well as your personal tastes, but the basics remain the same.
You’ll need yeast, malted barley or malt extract, grains, hops and good water; often, well or town water does fine. The ingredients vary widely depending on the type of beer and a select few forgo the hops and use other ingredients, like juniper berries, as bittering agents.
For the more adventurous, the sky’s the limit. The People’s Pint’s Slippery Slope, for example, uses cider and honey in addition to the more traditional ingredients.
There are several resources out there for beginning home brewers, though Sellers says your best bet is to buddy up with someone who’s brewed before.
“I didn’t have someone to help me out when I was getting started, but it would have helped me avoid a lot of mistakes,” said Sellers, who started brewing about 10 years ago while in college.
He’s been head brewer at the Pint for three years, though he started working there six years ago. He’s done everything from scrubbing out the vats and delivering beers to developing new brews for the 15-year-old brewery.
Sellers recommends “The Complete Joy of Homebrewing,” by Charlie Papazian, who’s been making homebrew since the 1970s. Now in its third edition, it covers everything from beer history and brewing basics to the chemistry involved, details the different ingredients, tells you what you’ll need to make beer and how to do it and gives several recipes.
You can also seek help from the folks at your local brewer’s supply shop. For those in Franklin County, the closest is Beer and Winemaking Supplies, Inc., at 154 King St., Northampton. You can also check them out online at
There’s always something happening at the Dickinson Memorial Library.
The November Tuesday forum will discuss genealogy, including tips and tricks for researching your own heritage. It will be held at 6:30 p.m., Nov. 20.
Keep your eye out for an upcoming discussion and demonstration on cheese making, still to-be-scheduled. There will also be a program on local agriculture.
The library will also host its fourth-annual Tellabration, a story-telling event that’s held worldwide. No date has been set yet, but it’s been held in November in previous years.
The library hosts regular book discussion groups and kids’ story hours and puts local artists’ work on display.
For the library’s latest news and events, go online to
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413-772-0261 Ext. 266. His website is
Staff reporter David Rainville has worked at The Recorder since 2011. He covers Bernardston, Leyden, Northfield and Warwick. He can be reached at email@example.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279