Bitter & Esters Brewshop 101

When someone finds out we’re beer writers, the first question they usually ask is, “So do you make your own beer?”

I understand where this comes from. Beer is delicious, obviously, and making it is miraculous for someone who hasn’t ever brewed. Unfortunately, our answer to that question is always, “Not lately…” or “Well… we don’t have a batch going at the moment.”

Of course, we have homebrewed. Giancarlo, in fact, used to brew quite frequently. I like to say I dabble. My hesitation when it comes to brewing is completely because of the mess. We have a small Brooklyn apartment. We don’t have enough space for a 5 gallon brew, and making a one gallon batch is tight. Somehow, wort gets everywhere. We’ve occasionally gone to Giancarlo’s parents out on Long Island to brew in their backyard on their propane grill. It’s a good setup, but we still have to clean. (Are you sensing a theme here?)

Last month the fine folks at Vimbly invited me to a Brewshop 101 class at Bitter & Esters. An afternoon of drinking beer, brewing, learning about brewing, and not having to clean up? How could I say no?

Bitter & Esters is our local homebrewing shop, which was opened in mid- 2011 by John LaPolla and Doug Amport. We’ve been there a bunch of times, and every time we visit the guys are really helpful. They have a library of recipes to choose from and will aid in selecting ingredients. In addition to classes and homebrewing supplies, Bitter & Esters houses the only brew-on-premise system in the city. You can brew your own batch of beer there. They’ll store it during fermentation and prepare it for bottling.

This was the first class I had been to at the shop, and it was a great experience. As its name suggests, Brewshop 101 is an introduction to homebrewing. A good choice for someone who has never brewed before or only brewed a couple of times. Or, as the case may be, someone who doesn’t want to brew at home because of the mess (ahem).

LaPolla leads a great class. It’s informative, and you’ll laugh quite a bit. He sprinkles in humor with brewing science and wisdom, saying things like “We’re feeding our yeast and drinking their poop. But delicious, delicious poop that we all love,” “A watched pot never boils. An unwatched brewpot will boil over. Guaranteed,” and also (most applicable to my situation) “You really want to have a helper on brew day because brewing is a lonely business. And cleaning up is a really lonely business.”

Over the course of the 2 1/2 hour class, we brewed an extract version of the White House Honey Ale, chosen because the President happened to be visiting Crown Heights that day. It’s a hands-on event, with myself and the other students adding in the malt extract, hops, and yeast. And throughout the class you’ll have the opportunity to taste beers Amport and LaPolla keep on tap: a handful of brews from previous classes.

Adding the dry malt extract. 

Adding (and sampling) the liquid malt extract. 

The wort chiller working its magic. 

Bitter & Esters offers a variety of classes, from Brewshop 101 to yeast and hops lectures, to homebrewing essentials. You can register for Brewshop 101 through Vimbly here.

Admission to Brewshop 101 was provided to BeerUnion by Vimbly, an activity booking website.

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