Big brew at the Big Brown Barn: ten different brew stations brewed over 100 gallons of homebrew at the annual March event.


Mike and Michael brewing at the farm in the early days.

The fact is that we got strung out on Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale, which was just dandy when we lived apart, but put two hop-heads in the same house and you’ve got a budget crisis.   

Luckily, we are optimists and do not mind a bit of work.  We’d just brew it our own damn selves.

I was able to bring to the table a family history of brewing that dates to prohibition, and most probably back to the old country.   My father told stories of  his maternal uncles John and Jim who brewed beer for Licavoli, so the legend goes.  The mafia had a ready supply of beer from many home brewers who would set their supplies outside for home pick-up.  And on his father’s side, his Aunt Marie supplied a wide swath of Sandusky country-side with her delicious stouts and ales.  His own father always had a yeasty bubbly brew set down in his basement in large crocks protected only by cheesecloth.  The quality might not have been top-notch, but it was always happily enjoyed on Sundays when relatives and neighbors stopped by because they forgot to lay in a supply before the shops closed.

With these stories, my father and I started brewing in the mid 1990’s.  We were armed with a bottle-capper from his uncles, which was made with a 1920’s Ford steering wheel, and Charlie Papazian.  Our achievements were not great but, as any intergenerational melding is, it was a great time.

So, in a fit of energetic desire to curb our spending, Michael and I decided to take the hobby up.   Our achievements equaled my previous attempts, which is to say that if you found the beer on a desert island you’d be thrilled, but anywhere else you’d find a nearby plant to discreetly water.  

Nevertheless, we were proud.  The local brew supply shop, Titgemeier’s, had a brew tasting/contest and we were so proud, in fact, that we entered our IPA.  Homebrewers, by and large, are a kindly polite sort, so while nobody overtly spit our beer out, we didn’t see anyone actually finish their sample.  Luckily, this is where we met Joe, who optimistically avowed that he ‘definitely did not want to spit our beer out right away.’

Joe taught us to brew, with grain, water, hops and yeast, and he led us through the entire process many times until we had the system and the understanding to do it right. 

Cheers to Joe and the brewers in my bloodline who are probably responsible for the whole thing anyway. 

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