Frankenkeg

BEER + WINE ISSUE: A monster kegerator just took over my kitchen!  

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Mad scientist or homebrew-making supplies?
GUARDIAN PHOTOS BY EMILY SAVAGE

emilysavage@sfbg.com

BEER + WINE It seemed to just appear one day, lurking around the corner of the kitchen entryway. It was huge, buzzing, rectangular, and nearly five feet tall. Its glossy belly gurgled with homemade California Common brown ale, a slightly off concoction, similar to a typical Anchor Steam beer, that nevertheless tasted quite fresh, and spewed forth from the newly attached tap.

And that's when I learned to love the scrappy new project in my kitchen: the Frankenkeg. It's a bulky, DIY kegerator pieced together by my husband, Marcus, over the past few months, after a homebrewing obsession that began a little over three years ago. And although it's a work in progress, it's a real beauty in the way you'll always love the rescued dog you taught new tricks. Plus, with three taps, it churns out a pretty constant stream of the good stuff.

The whole homebrewing thing started off far more inauspiciously, after a few friends in the East Bay and Outer Richmond area began their own homebrew experiments.

"I just always thought it was too difficult, but once I saw [my friends] doing it, I was like, 'okay, I can do this,'" says Marcus, a GIS specialist for an environmental nonprofit in the East Bay. "And you know, I always need a hobby, and this one involves making stuff. You get to make something and watch it grow."

He began where many budding homebrewers in the Bay Area start: Brewcraft, a devoted homebrew shop in the Richmond district, led by brewmaster Gregory William Miller the Thirdstein, aka Griz. Griz, who also teaches free classes at the shop, was once quoted on KAWL as saying, "I learned how to brew out of the back of a Field and Stream magazine." From my limited interactions with him at Brewcraft, it's clear he knows a whole lot about the craft of beer.

Marcus learned through Griz's store and also by going to San Francisco Homebrewers Guild events, like a recent one at Cervecería de Mateveza at 18th and Church, where the brewers crafted a Dulce de Leche imperial stout. The San Francisco Homebrewers Guild is a combination of two groups that merged in January 2013, in which there are 140 dues-paying members and nearly 500 in the Meetup group. The founder and president is Chris Cohen. Group VP Kevin Inglin says the experience level in the group is wide-ranging, "We have several brewers who have been at it for a decade or more and a large group of people new to the hobby." Inglin, an Army officer who is working to open his own nano brewery with his wife in the city, started homebrewing in 1996 with an ingredient kit he bought from a display set up in the corner of a German bar, while living in the South. He's since homebrewed in Tennessee, Alabama, Hawaii, Virginia, Texas, Germany, and California.

Marcus first picked up his kit from Brewcraft, which included a big glass fermenting jug. His initial recipes, cooked up on our stove in a huge boiling pot, were all from Griz. He's since learned to switch up ingredients to form his own concoctions by listening to podcasts like The Jamil Show, and visiting websites including Home Brew Talk, the Homebrewers Association Forum, and the homebrewing subreddit.

And Marcus enters his beers onto online recipe toolkit, Brewtoad. The site helps keep a batch within the style and tells you how it will taste with all the ingredients because, "to me it's a little bit abstract: you throw all this stuff in there; I know this thing will do that, but I don't know how much of each. So it will tell you, if you add this much crystal 40 — a grain that adds color and sugars — this is what the final color will be, and if it's within the style you're trying to make."

In the past few years, Marcus has made batches of Imperial stout, IPA, cider, black ale, and a hibiscus saison inspired by Pacific Brewing Laboratory, which we sipped at Outside Lands.

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