Food & Wine

Homebrewers create unique beers in Los Altos

Photo By: Courtesy of Derek Wolfgram
Derek Wolfgram samples six different beers brewed with barbecue-smoked malts at the Sudzers/Slow Hand BBQ Beer Competition.

With the availability of such outstanding craft beers on the market these days, people often ask why homebrewers would go to the trouble of brewing their own beer.

Reasons vary. Some brewers enjoy crafting recipes to create a certain flavor profile. Others enjoy the engineering challenges of tinkering with equipment to streamline processes or increase production efficiency. Many enjoy taking pride in a handcrafted product to share with friends and family.

Los Altos is a terrific community for both novice and experienced homebrewers. MoreBeer on San Antonio Road is a local source for homebrew ingredients and equipment, and multiple homebrew clubs meet nearby. You can even find a number of books and DVDs about homebrewing available for checkout

from Los Altos libraries.

Homebrew clubs provide unique opportunities to learn about beer and brewing from other brewers. In addition to regular meetings to share and critique homebrews and discuss various aspects of beer styles or brewing techniques, clubs sponsor a number of events, including brewing demonstration days, brewery tours, participation in homebrew festivals and conferences, and competitions.

The Worts of Wisdom Homebrew Club, based in Mountain View, organizes an annual competition at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair focused on British beer styles. I’m a member of the Silicon Valley Sudzers Homebrew Club, based in Los Altos Hills, which recently held a competition to brew beer using malted barley that had been smoked with barbecue meats.

Homebrewers have a tendency to come up with very creative recipes. In the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy a German Hefeweizen brewed with lavender, an oak-aged Whiskey Donut Stout brewed with maple syrup, a Red Velvet Cake ale (which did actually include an entire cake in the recipe) and a Colonial ale brewed with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, molasses and spruce tips.

If you’re interested in learning more about homebrewing, stop by and talk with the friendly staff at MoreBeer, visit one of the local homebrew clubs at their regular monthly meetings or visit the Los Altos libraries for more information. Multiple online resources exist as well – a good starting place is the American Homebrewers Association (, which has grown to more than 36,000 members in recent years.

Beginning this month, I will be writing a monthly column for the Town Crier on all things beer. Upcoming topics include profiles of local breweries, recommendations for local craft brews, beer and food pairing, upcoming beer events and much more. If you have suggestions or feedback, please feel free to email me at [email protected]

Until next month, as Charlie Papazian, founder of the American Homebrewers Association, is fond of saying, “Relax. Don’t Worry. Have a homebrew.”

Derek Wolfgram is chief communications officer for the Silicon Valley Sudzers Homebrew Club, which meets in Los Altos Hills and welcomes both new and experienced brewers and beer enthusiasts. For more information, visit

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