A taste of home, brewed with love

May. 04, 2013 @ 08:22 PM

Now in its fourth year, the annual BrewDurham homebrew festival can give the city’s better-known and much larger World Beer Festival a run for its money in the taste department.

The event, a benefit for The Scrap Exchange, brought 35 brewers to the Golden Belt business center on Saturday to present their concoctions to a couple hundred happy tasters.

And while most of them were pure hobbyists, they clearly approach the task of brewing as seriously as the commercial microbrewers who each fall take over one of Durham’s downtown baseball stadiums for a full day of tasting sessions.

“It’s definitely brewed at our home, but we love it like it’s our job,” said Lara Murphy, who was joining husband and brewing partner Paul Hobson in just the fourth public serving of their work.

Murphy and Hobson brought to BrewDurham a science experiment in the best sense of the term, three different porters based on recipes identical in all but one respect: Each used a different species of yeast.

One – call it the control – produced a normal-tasting English porter. But for the other two, Hobson and Murphy opted to brew with the sort of yeasts that more typically go into pale beers like lagers and saisons.

And they produced very different results, both to the English-style control and to each other. One was dry and Guinness-like; the other almost fruity.

The point, Murphy said, was all about “really isolating what flavor the yeast will give in the same beer, [so] you can see how it plays with the chocolate and the roasty malt.”

Tasters could signal their approval of each brewer’s offerings by tossing a torn ticket into a glass on the brewer’s table.

Hobson and Murphy – who blog about home brewing at citralovessorachi.com – by mid-way in Saturday’s first tasting session had collected more than a dozen tickets, making them early contenders for one of the festival’s best-of trophies.

Across the way, fellow Durham resident John Glazer was taking a somewhat more conventional approach, handing out samples of a chocolate and vanilla stout, a double IPA and an apricot wheat beer.

Glazer – like Murphy a transplant from Brooklyn – said he’s been brewing off and on for about three years and wanted tasters to experience a gamut of styles. He was participating in BrewDurham for the first time but is a regular in two different Triangle homebrew clubs.

“Everyone here is just so friendly,” he said of the other brewers, the tasters and the organizers.

Scrap Exchange Marketing and Promotions Coordinator Ruth Warren said the event is the brainchild of local homebrewer Kile Jansen, who four years ago “brought the idea to us,” both to help the Triangle homebrew scene and raise money for the reuse center.

Warren said Saturday’s festival was on track to raise nearly $7,000 for The Scrap Exchange, which relocated to Golden Belt in 2011 following a partial roof collapse at its old quarters, downtown’s Liberty Warehouse.

Golden Belt has “been really a good space for us,” Warren said. “We’ve been able to grow [and] grow our programming.”