For many beer enthusiasts, a 4-pack from the local craft beer store is the common answer. But brewing your own beer is hard work, satisfying, and can become a fun channel to learn and network. Homebrew clubs are popular across the country, and we had an opportunity to interview Jason from Green Mountain Mashers, Vermont’s oldest homebrew club.
1. What is Green Mountain Mashers and how long have you been around? What was the inspiration for getting started and how big is the group today?
The Green Mountain Mashers are a homebrew club in Northwest VT founded in 1989. The club was founded with help from the Godfather of Vermont Beer – Greg Noonan. Greg promoted a very open and sharing brewing environment. He was a great mentor and friend of the club. In his spirit the club promotes openness, sharing and community at our events as well as all things brewing. The club has about 60 members with a typical event having 25-30 members present. We run many events including brewery tours, education classes, club brews, socials, educational talks and educational tables at local brewfests.
2. You are “veterans” of the Vermont beer scene over the last 30 years — what have you seen change over time? And what do you think of the recent surge in craft breweries?
The popularity of homebrewing has risen dramatically and that has lead to a vast improvements in the quality and variety of ingredients available to the homebrewer. Quality ingredients make better beer and homebrewers have the largest selection of equipment and ingredients they ever have. Some homebrewers like to fully replicate what is being done on a professional level and some keep it very, very simple but both can make great beers. The recent surge in craft breweries has been great for homebrewing. Members of the club have gone pro starting breweries such as Four Quarters in Winooski, Queen City Brewing in Burlington and Goodwater Brewing in Williston. The one thing these brewers did though is they put in their time homebrewing and learning the craft, they didn’t just “jump in”. The success of any brewery depends on many things, but a passion for brewing is key.
3. For an individual who is passionate about beer, how do you suggest they get started with homebrewing? Can anyone be a homebrewer?
Anyone can homebrew! Always start simple and try to repeat your successes. Try to brew a very simple dark beer, which helps hide any faults, for your first beer. Then see if you can do it again. Too often new brewers jump quickly to a very complex beer and don’t fully understand the basic brewing process. Stopping by a brew day with a friend or homebrew club is also a great way to learn from other’s experience. This won’t cost you anything and will give you a much better, hands on idea of what a brew session consists of. This will cut down on mistakes and bad beer which will make you want to brew more often. Homebrewing can be as simple or complex as you want it to be but build up to the complex. A simple stove top BIAB (Brew In A Bag) 2 gallon batch can be made very simply, very cheaply and in a short amount of time while being just as good (or better) than professional beer. Remember to start small and work your way up.
4. What are some of the most interesting things your members have done in their “professional” lives? Have any of them gone out to start a local brewery?
Three VT breweries have come out of the club. Queen City Brewery was started by 3 longtime members of the club and they are currently expanding their location on Pine Street in Burlington. Four Quarters brewery in Winooski was started by member Brian Eckert and they are also currently expanding. Marty Bonneau of the club started Goodwater Brewery in Williston. Numerous members are professional brewers in the brewing industry. Member Amy Quenneville Todd opened Zymology Labs on Pine St in Burlington and provides beer analysis reports to both professional breweries and homebrewers. Other club members running breweries including Kevin Hanson of Hogback Mountain Brewing and Joshua Smith of Kickback Brewery.
5. Are you open to new members and what do you ask of interested individuals who want to join Green Mountain Mashers?
We welcome anyone who is interested in homebrewing to join us for a meeting or two to check out what we are about. Membership is $25/yr or $200 for a lifetime membership. Club members get access to the 1.5 barrel club system, wort from club brews, discounts and a free beer analysis from Zymology Labs, access to the club library, BJCP class, BJCP exams and more. We meet approximately once a month except during the summer. All of our events are listed on our Facebook events page. We are also on Twitter and Instagram. Feel free to email the club with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org