ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Oh, how you want to sample the beer you've lovingly created from a combination of water, grain, hops and yeast — but you have to wait until it's ready.
And that could be anywhere from two to four weeks after bottling — or longer — depending on the type of brew.
So, you put it in a place far enough away not to be constantly tempted to crack one open. But the first couple times you home brew, the pull is too great.
"It's terrible," said Greg Krumm of Arnold. "You end up sampling one bottle a day until they're gone and the last day, it's really good. Once you have a couple batches under your belt, you realize the waiting is a good thing."
Krumm is a member of the Annapolis Homebrew Club, a 9-month-old organization whose members have a passion for beer. They hold monthly meetings and discuss the nuances of brewing right down to subtleties that would make a scientist proud.
Of course, they also enjoy sampling their creations. But they're not out to get hammered. There's far too much work in their beers to waste them that way.
"We're not a bunch of toothless, beer-swilling rednecks," proclaimed one member, Kurt Anderson, a Navy chief petty officer who's been brewing for five years. "We're craftsmen."
The club got started after he moved to the area from Florida last year and ran into an old shipmate who wanted to learn the craft.
They, in turn, went online, where they found another couple of interested local residents and decided to band together. There are about 60 people on the club's mailing list, about 25 of whom gather for meetings.
Members are from across the county, as well as the Eastern Shore, and range in age from 22 to over 60.
"It's not like a typical chick thing to do," said Kristin Reel, a stay-at-home mother from Edgewater.
She learned home brewing from her father. Anderson also has a relative to thank. "My brother started making it, and I wanted to top my brother," he said.
Others got their initial push after sampling a particularly intriguing craft beer and wondering if they could make something similar.
"It's a self-satisfying hobby," said Adam Davis of College Park, who works in fisheries policy.
For Krumm, home brewing is simply an expression of his creativity. "It's kind of like cooking, but it ends up being beer," he said.
Most people have to make a few batches before they really know what they're doing, he said, but the experiments are half the fun.
"When you first start, you just want to make beer," said Krumm, a loan officer at a bank. "Two or three years later, I'll be telling you about enzymes."
Minute changes in temperature or time can impact the final product, so even after someone becomes a proficient brewer, batches can vary.
"You can make the exact same beer 10 times and it'll be a little different," said Jay Wonch, a club member from Crownsville.
Grin and beer it
Anderson looked like he was preparing for a science experiment as he lugged beer-making equipment into Krumm's house recently. He wanted to show the devices involved in the process, and do a little brewing.
"This is my yeast," Anderson said, holding up a couple jars filled with a dark substance. "These guys are the actual heroes."
Like any hobby, beer-making can get expensive. But someone can get the basic equipment for $75 and the ingredients for a first batch, which makes 5 gallons, for another $30, said Matthew Ducey, a manager at Annapolis Home Brew in Severna Park.
"It's just as easy as baking," he said, adding that home brewing is growing in popularity.
Club members get a lot of their supplies at the shop, which has been in business 15 years, or online.
The basic recipe calls for heating water, adding that to grains, and then letting the mixture sit for a specific amount of time until the results are siphoned off. Brewers boil that, add hops and cool before placing it into a container. Yeast is added before sealing the container and letting it sit two to four weeks. Bottling comes next, along with more waiting.
Additional ingredients can be added along the way, and these can get pretty exotic. Ducey's sampled a jalapeno and bacon beer, a sweet potato beer, and made a brown sugar cinnamon and oatmeal beer.
Club members have heard of everything from fish parts to seaweed being added to brews.
Some of their own beer carries interesting names, such as Shark Bite, Tongue Lashing and Black Hop Monster, which give nods to the ingredients and the taste. Davis made gluten-free beer for his girlfriend called Oxymoronic Tonic.
One club member recently won a competition and has his beer, "Katie's IPA," at a local restaurant chain.
"The cameraderie (in the club) is excellent," Krumm said. "A lot of us instantly got along really well. And it's the knowledge. You can read all you want, but a lot of people like myself, we learn by doing or watching. Most of us make pretty good stuff."