All across Indiana, trying a craft beer is as easy as stopping at the local pub or visiting a carry-out store.
More and more people are sampling expertly made porters, India pale ales and ambers. They’re sampling wild beers infused with raspberry, chili peppers and coffee.
And soon, Johnson County aficionados will be able to experiment with small-batch beers that they’ve made themselves.
Homebrewing is getting much more simple with the opening of Brew-By-U, a beer-making emporium operating in the Center Grove area. The concept is to provide everything you need to create a stout, pale ale or lager — from grain to malt to kettles — in a single location.
The beer is brewed on site, fermented over the course of few weeks, and then bottled.
By providing the homebrewing experience without the mess or cost, Brew-By-U intends to make the already growing world of craft beer even more accessible.
“It allows you to homebrew without having all of the investment. You don’t have all of those smells and the humidity that comes up brewing at home,” owner Jeremy Hough said.
Inside the Brew-By-U headquarters, the earthy scent of grain and hops wafts through the storefront space.
Customers are greeted by six gleaming stainless steel cooking kettles, capable of holding the boiling wort that will become the basis of their beer.
The set-up is clinical and clean — very much unlike the messy kitchens and piecemeal pots and pans that most beginning brewers have to deal with.
Hough remembers those days. He’s been making craft beer for about 10 years, starting when he received a kit as a gift. He’d make batches of beer in stovetop kettles, fermenting it in a bucket until it was ready to drink.
He wasn’t alone. Homebrewing started growing in popularity in the early 1990s, before craft beer were widely available.
Craft beer production was up 18 percent last year, according to the Brewers Association, a beer trade organization. According to the American Homebrewers Association, more than 80 percent of all supply stores in the U.S reported an increase in homebrew equipment sales last year.
But for those getting into it, purchasing the tanks, coolers, tubing, grain and other supplies can cost $100 or more.
That reality inspired Hough to start Brew-By-U. But the business wasn’t born during one of his brewing sessions. Rather, it was conceived in 2013 during a Wine and Canvas event.
After he attended the course, which teaches people to paint a simple scene while enjoying a glass of wine, Hough was struck by inspiration.
“I have no artistic ability whatsoever, but I used their equipment and supplies and their stuff, and it turned out OK,” he said. “I was sitting there afterwards and thought, ‘Someone should do this with beer.’”
When customers walk into Brew-By-U, they come straight into the brewing room. The six cooking kettles will be lined up along one full wall, with the supplies lined up on shelves and in coolers to the side.
Though brewing experts will be available to help lead novices in the right direction, customers will have full control of the beer their making. It will be truly their own creation, Hough said.
“The first thing they’ll look through a book of recipes, to decide which beer we want to brew,” Hough said. “We’ll give them a recipe sheet, they’ll measure out their extract, and they can get to work.”
Initially, Brew-By-U will offer 16 recipes to make. Fans of hoppy, invigorating beers can pick out an India pale ale batch. Those who prefer a lighter beer can make a cream ale. Brown ales, oatmeal stouts and kolsch-style lagers also are potential options.
“Whether it’s my own or trying new breweries’ beers, I like to experiment with different things,” Hough said. “With this system, you can experiment and play with different things.”
The extract provides the sugars for the fermentation process to make the alcohol, and brewers will steep grain like tea, giving it distinctive flavors and colors. The steeped grain is boiled, then the abstract and hops are added according to the recipe.
“I tried to do everything I can to make it an easy process,” Hough said.
Finally, the brew is chilled quickly, put in a fermentation vessel where the yeast converts the sugars in the extract, and they’re done for the day. The beer will ferment for two to three weeks, until bottling time.
“We’ll let them know when their beer is ready, and they’ll come back to bottle,” Hough said.
Indianapolis does feature established businesses that sell homebrewing supplies, such as Great Fermentations in Broad Ripple and Brew Link Supply in Fountain Square.
But Brew-By-U is the first brew-on-premises business in the state. By Hough’s own research, only about 50 such companies are in operation throughout the U.S.
Since it is a relatively new business model for Indiana, Hough scheduled meetings with the state alcohol commission to determine what he would need to do and what licenses he would need.
Indiana law doesn’t restrict any kind of brew-on-premises operation, and the only licensing he would need is a brewery permit, which would allow Hough to open a tasting room.
Hough envisions a place where beer lovers can come and try brewing before getting into their own homebrewing operations, if they want.
They can sample the types of beer before they make it and take home a growler of already-brewed beer while their own batch is fermenting.
And for those who have their own homebrew operations in the garage or the basement, Brew-By-U offers the grains, hops and other supplies needed to make each batch.
“I was really surprised by how many people I’ve spoken to already do homebrewing,” Hough said. “A lot of people already go to Broad Ripple to get their supplies. Now, they don’t have to.”
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What you need:
- Heat source, capable of bring 1 to 3 gallons of water to boil
- Boil pot: 1.5 to 5-gallon
- Stirring spoon, capable of reaching bottom of the pot
- Measuring cup
- Unscented dish cleaner
- Sanitizer spray
- Fermentor: can simply be a plastic bucket or jug
- Racking cane: can be an auto siphon
- Bottling bucket: similar to plastic bucket fermentor, but with a spigot on the bottom
- Bottle filler
- Bottle brush
- Bottles and caps
- Bottle capper
- Malt extract
- Priming sugar
A simplified look at brewing beer.
1. Gather supplies.
2. Clean equipment using unscented cleaner.
3. Boil 1 gallon of water in the boil pot.
4. Remove pot from heat once it is boiling, and stir in malt extract until it’s dissolved.
5. Return pot to boil.
6. Add hops once the liquid, or wort, is a roiling boil.
7. Sanitize all equipment that comes in contact with the wort moving forward to prevent spoiling the batch.
8. Fill the fermentor halfway with cold water, then add hot wort. Fill fermentor with cold water to reach 5 gallons.
9. Add yeast when the wort temperature is 70 to 75 degrees.
10. Seal fermentor with an airlock.
11. Shake fermentor to provide oxygen to the yeast.
12. Store fermentor in a location with a stable temperature where it will not be disturbed.
13. After three or four weeks, add priming sugar to add carbonation to the beer.
13. Transfer beer with the racking cane from the fermentor to the bottling bucket.
14. Attach bottle filler to the bucket’s spigot.
15. Fill and cap bottles.
SOURCE: American Homebrewers Association
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What: Brew-By-U, a beer-brewing business that allows people to create their own beer on the premises
Where: 3021 Meridian Meadows Road, Greenwood
Owner: Jeremy Hough
Opening: Today; a tasting room is slated to open in March.
Hours: 3 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
Reservations: Accepted for small groups or individuals. Walk-in brewers are welcome, but reservations are encouraged.
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“It allows you to home brew without having all of the investment. You don’t have all of those smells and the humidity that comes up brewing at home.”
Jeremy Hough, owner of Brew-By-U