Want the DIY skinny on BYOB?
A Modesto business has you covered. In this case, those latter letters refer to Brew Your Own Beer, and the Barley & Wine supply and education shop locally reflects a nationwide explosion in do-it-yourself home brewing.
“Home brewing began its growth in popularity in the early ’90s and with the recent growth in craft beer has, in turn, exploded over the past five years,” Barley & Wine owner Steve Leandres said in an email interview. Leandres and his partners, cousins Galen and Sean Wildeman, bought the shop from a former owner and reopened Barley & Wine on – fittingly – St. Patrick’s Day 2010, moving it from Ceres to an east Modesto shopping center on Oakdale Road.
“The original owner … decided to retire, and I had been recently laid off from a job in corporate sales,” Leandres said. “I wanted to make sure the Central Valley still had a dedicated homebrew supply shop, and the rest is history.”
Barley & Wine is the only homebrew and wine making supply shop between Sacramento and Fresno, he said. Add to that a sweet dose of timing and it looks like a recipe for a sudsy success.
According to the American Homebrewers Association website, there are an estimated 1.2 million homebrewers in the United States, two-thirds of whom began brewing in 2005 or later. The average homebrewer is 40 years old, with 60 percent between the ages of 30 and 49; 69 percent have a college degree, with 60 percent taking in a household income of $75,000 or more.
While selling supplies to homebrewers is the bread and butter of the store, Leandres also offers winemaking supplies, some cheesemaking kits and more. The shop also offers regular classes on craft beer brewing and winemaking – popular events that help bring repeat customers.
“Classes are the No. 1 driver for new business,” Leandres said. “Over the last four years, we have done well to fill classes. Over the last year, we have expanded to offering at least two classes per month.”
A class in late March drew 15 would-be homebrewers – 11 men and four women. On a warm morning outside the shop, class instructor Jonathan Vigil schooled the group on the basics of brew, allowed for some hands-on opportunities and emphasized the importance of sanitizing equipment.
This day, Vigil was making a Session IPA, beginning with a base “wort,” then adding the yeast necessary to turn it into a beer.
“It’s really hard to mess up,” Vigil told the class. “You almost have to try.”
It would be three weeks before the beer would be ready for drinking. “You can come back and taste the fruit of your labor,” Vigil promised the class, which coincidentally was meeting on the same day as the store’s five-year anniversary celebration.
Gina and Roy Samaniego came from Manteca to attend the class. “My husband showed interest in brewing,” Gina Samaniego said. “It could be a new hobby and maybe save some money and (let us) explore with different flavors.”
“I like drinking beer,” husband Roy confirmed, “and it looked like fun.”
For David Kee, who’s had a little experience at homebrewing, it was a chance to spend some time with 22-year-old son, Hayden. The class “rekindled our interest to take another stab at it,” he said.
Melody Maldonado came from Turlock to meet a friend who drove about 80 miles to join her at the class. “She (Maldonado) said, ‘Hey, let’s go brew some beer,’ and I said yes,” said Alexa Bermudez, who came from Sacramento.
It wouldn’t be the last class at Barley & Wine for Maldonado: “I’m coming back for winemaking with my mom and grandma,” she said.
That winemaking element will grow in coming months, Leandres said, along with other expansions.
“We currently offer beginning brewing classes and wine kit demos,” he said. “We plan on hosting a ‘Crush Event’ where we will offer demonstration on the entire winemaking process. We will also begin hosting cheesemaking demos this summer.”
But the emphasis remains on beer.
“The focus is on homebrew for two reasons: One, beer has a much quicker turnaround time (two to three weeks vs. a year-plus), making it a retail-friendly hobby,” Leandres said.
“Two, beermaking is not seasonal. Wine harvest is usually late August to early September, and the window to make wine from grapes is very short. We expand the wine supplies each year as the season dictates.”
And homebrewing has endless possibilities for the do-it-yourselfer. “Any beer you can buy can be brewed at home,” he said. “Ales, lagers, hoppy IPAs, imperial stouts, or possibly a beer that hasn’t even been thought of yet.”
There are three employees at Barley & Wine, which is open six days a week. In addition to the public classes, they offer private lessons, and Leandres said the business looks to give back to the community by participating in local events and fundraisers.
So, what’s the biggest mistake do-it-yourselfers make in the BYOB process?
“I’d say being afraid to come into the store and ask questions. We always encourage every customer (or potential customer) to ask any questions they have before making a mistake that could turn them away from the hobby,” Leandres said. “That’s the No. 1 thing that separates our store from online retailers – having a friendly person to talk to.”
Reach Bee staff writer Pat Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org.