- Associated Press - Sunday, January 31, 2016

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) - It’s 10 a.m. on a recent Saturday, and inside his two-car Davenport garage, Jason Gabriel is warming to his topic. With black marker in hand, he talks and writes numbers on a white board, while two college students who want to get better at brewing their own beer sit on folding chairs in front of him, taking notes.

Steam rises to the ceiling from a stainless steel pot set atop a homemade beer-brewing apparatus that Gabriel calls his “beer sculpture.”

Glancing around the garage, it is apparent that Gabriel hasn’t used the space for parking cars in quite some time. Years, in fact. In addition to the “sculpture” in the middle, the sides of the garage are lined with shelves neatly arranged with the accoutrements of his hobby - three-ring binders of recipes, five-gallon glass jugs, plastic buckets, stainless steel fermenters, converted soda kegs and boxes of bottles.

At the front is a long stainless steel sink with three faucets with hoses attached and a “keg-er-ator,” or converted refrigerator, with four tappers on the door that correspond to four kegs of beer inside. They are kept carbonized via tubes attached to carbon dioxide tanks that stand to the side.

The Quad-City Times (https://bit.ly/1lPJ9P0 ) reports that affixed to the overhead garage door in back are dozens and dozens of ribbons that Gabriel has won in beer competitions.

Modern interest in home brewing took hold in 1978 with the passage of federal legislation that made it legal, and began soaring around 2005 when millennials - people born in the early 1980s to 2000s - became of legal drinking age and discovered the joys of craft beer, said Gary Glass, director of the American Homebrewers Association, based in Boulder, Colorado.

Julie Keehn, the owner of Camp McClellan Cellars in the Village of East Davenport where beer making supplies are sold, said she has seen a leveling off of interest with the ready availability of craft beer at breweries and stores.

But the home brew hobby still is attracting people who want to become really good at it, who enjoy the creativity or who like the idea of making a glass of beer for 50 cents.

Gabriel is definitely good at it.

Not only is he an award-winning home brewer, but he is a nationally certified beer judge through the nonprofit Beer Judge Certification Program, and over the past 10 years he has informally taught about 45 people how to brew.

Last year he began offering formal classes through a side business he calls ManCaveBrewNiversity.

“You can watch all the YouTube videos and read all the books, but nothing beats a hands-on, one-on-one participation with a quality instructor,” he says.

On this day, Western Illinois University seniors Christian LaCarte, of Park View, and John McAfoos, of Davenport, have paid $40 for a five-hour “all grain” class.

When first getting into homemade beer, almost everyone buys a kit with dehydrated brewing extracts. Instead of extract, this class will use a couple of buckets of malted (sprouted and dried) barley - thus, “all grain” - to make 10 gallons of a recipe called Racking Cane Red.

To someone just dropping in, it might seem that Gabriel is teaching chemistry or math because he refers to enzymes, specific gravity and algebraic formulas. Brewing involves all this, and Gabriel is passionate about mastering the process. Good beer isn’t just happenstance. The brewer controls what happens by measuring, adding and subtracting.

“The one thing I want people to take away is that we are the brewer, we are in charge of the process,” he tells his students. “You create and craft the thing we want to make.”

Two “magical” things occur to create beer - starch (the malted grain) turns into sugar, and sugar turns into alcohol. This class will end with the creation of sugar.

The two most exciting parts of the day are the “mash in” when the malted grain is stirred into hot water and, later, when hops (dried flowers of the hop plant that provide bitterness, flavor and aroma) are added to the boiling solution, or wort.

After that (and the class is over), Gabriel will chill the solution and add oxygen and yeast. Thus will begin the second “magical” part, the turning of sugar into alcohol, or fermentation, which happens over a period of weeks at various temperatures, according to your beer, and then aging, in which the carbonation develops.

“People think brewing is just one day,” Gabriel says. “But the most important elements of flavor are created on the cold side,” or after the boil.

In addition to the full grain class, Gabriel teaches sessions on “extract” beer, fermentation control and kegging secrets.

The class on kegging introduces another level of brewing. While hobbyists will begin by bottling their beer, those who get really into it take the next step to kegging.

“When people discover kegging, their lives change,” says Brian Traughber, owner of Quad-Cities U. Brew, a Moline supplies store. “Once you make the transition to kegging, you never look back.”

With kegging, beer can be ready in four to seven days versus two-three weeks because carbon dioxide is added through a tube rather than developing naturally, he explained.

One of Gabriel’s former students, Arron Rietz, of Davenport, sums up the appeal of homebrewing. “One reason is the price,” he says. “After start-up costs, if you were to buy the same amount of beer at a store that you can brew on your own, it would be much more expensive.

“Also, the process is creative and fun. You get to feel like you actually created something. When your friends drink what you’ve brewed, and like it, it’s a great feeling.”

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Information from: Quad-City Times, https://www.qctimes.com

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