CHAPEL HILL — From the look of it, Doug Widman and Charlie McGee are professional brewers.
Behind their table at a beer festival Saturday, a logo for Galvanized Brewing Co. hung from the wall. A business card advertised a company Facebook page and Twitter handle. And in front of them, the line stood five deep for their delicious India pale ale flavored with rare whole cone Motueka hops from Australia.
Days like that are the closest we get to being professional brewers, he said afterward. That day is the one day a year we get to pretend.
Widman and McGee are homebrewers. They make beer in a Carrboro garage and once a year, offer it to fellow beer lovers at Homebrew for Hunger, an amateur brewer festival each November in Chapel Hill.
We really get a satisfaction from seeing people enjoy our beer, said Widman, a 35-year-old vaccine researcher at UNC-Chapel Hill.
The beers Widman makes are hard to reproduce at a large-scale commercial brewery, often because of cost. But thats one reason homebrew draws a crowd.
More than once Saturday, a raving fan suggested they open their own brewery. Widman smiled and said no thanks. I tell people if I went and did it for my job, Id need a new hobby. And I dont want to find a new hobby, he said with a laugh.
Keil Jansen organizes the BrewDurham homebrew event and just turned pro with Ponysaurus Brewing in Durham. He said brewers are eager to share the beer they put many hours into making.
Its a creative endeavor, just like song writing or painting, he said. Most people who are engaged in any of those creative endeavors want to share it. Its just very universal impulse to want to share your creativity.
Like the Galvanized guys, husband-and-wife team Paul Dobson and Lara Murphy take their homebrewing seriously.
They served beer from a vintage aqua blue cooler with tap handles made of repurposed bartender muddlers. A decorative chalkboard sign listed their beers and a banner on the wall advertised their beer blog, citralovessorachi.com.
But Dobson remembers getting started nearly four years ago when he received a brewing kit as a holiday gift. Our first beer was terrible, he said Saturday. We spent one year making bad beer before we realized we could get good at it.
Now he is an award-winner and is brewing obscure sour beer styles with great success. Two blue ribbons from recent beer competitions decorated his table at Homebrew for Hunger.
Still, Hobson said hes impressed people spent $20 on tickets to taste homebrew. The event sold out at 400 tickets and raised $9,500 for Porch, a Chapel Hill hunger relief organization.
Its impressive that people are willing to spend that kind of money to taste amateur beer made in porches, garages and kitchens, he said.
What Im tasting
A few tables away from Hobson, I served a bourbon barrel-aged chocolate pecan stout. I let the beer sit on Makers Mark-soaked French oak chips for a couple weeks and it came out big on the bourbon.
It gave me new appreciation for the professional barrel-aged beers now hitting bottle shop shelves, which tend to be more balanced. Two of my favorite North Carolina barrel-aged beers: Mother Earths Silent Night and Olde Hickorys Event Horizon. Look for them soon.
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