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A newlywed Brooklyn couple saved a truck-load on beer by making it themselves and are now trying to spread the suds love with an ice-cold, refreshing cookbook.
The pair have been selling home-brew kits for the past five years and are committing their knowledge of lager lore to the page with a book of beer recipes from around the world. The multitalented entrepreneurs hope the tome will be the yeast that sets a new batch of brewers to fermenting.
“We wanted to share the same inspiration we felt,” said Stephen Valand, who started Brooklyn Brew Shop with his now-wife, Erica Shea. “The same inspiration that made us want to start a beer company.”
“Make Some Beer: Small-Batch Recipes from Brooklyn to Bamberg” is the couple’s second and includes 30 beer recipes divided by season. Most recipes are inspired by the Downtown’s duo’s travels — within the borough and around the world.
The book includes a tapioca ale, inspired by beer made at the Pausa Cafe, a brewery inside of a prison in northern Italy; a sweet potato lager, based on a brew made by Fullsteam Brewery in North Carolina, where sweet potatoes are plentiful; and a Camomile Blonde, the spark for which came after a trip to WTF Coffee Lab in Fort Greene.
The couple first started their alcoholic explorations after Shea gave her husband an old brewing rig that was sitting around her father’s house. At the time, Shea was not fond of beer herself and so they tried a recipe that masks the taste, a grapefruit honey ale.
“We didn’t want to make something we could just buy in the store,” said Valand. “And it turns out, grapefruit is actually really close to hops.”
After they got in the swing of things, they started sharing their creations with friends. Their testers loved the taste, but also wanted to know how it was done.
“We noticed that our friends not only wanted to drink it, they wanted to make it themselves,” said Shea.
The original contraption was cumbersome and old and, when the couple could not find the replacement parts they needed, they had to improvise to get it working. They thought that if their friends saw their Frankenstein setup, they would lose interest in doing it themselves.
“We knew if they saw how we were doing it, the conversation would end pretty quickly,” said Valand.
So they went to work making a prototype of a less unwieldy brewing kit and eventually came up with something that only required a little bit of jury-rigging. The couple started selling the kits at Brooklyn Flea in 2009. Soon the kits were online and selling like hot cakes.
“We thought it was a very city-specific product,” Shea said. “But all of a sudden, we were getting calls from all over the country.”
Brooklyn Brew Shop now sells kits for making nine types of beer. The boxes, which include the hardware as well as packets of key ingredients, run $40.
The company also starting a line of keg-ready beer called EST Brewing Company. The first flavor will be a coffee-and-donut stout. It sounds more like breakfast than a beer, but we were skeptical about the jalapeno saison, and that turned out pretty tasty.
“Make Some Beer” book launch at PowerHouse Arena [37 Main St. between Water and Plymouth streets in Dumbo, (718) 666–3049, www.powerhousearena.com]. May 13, 7–9 pm. Free.
©2014 Community Newspaper Group
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