By Julia Herz, American Homebrewers Association Executive Director
You’ve heard of thinking and drinking outside the box. What about brewing outside the box? As in, brewing outside the physical box of your kitchen and home. In 2022, my favorite brew day was a full-on mobile brew, a 1-gallon, all-grain batch of beer, lovingly made on an in-and-out, two-burner, propane camper stove connected to my Aliner Classic pop-up camper. More on this brew day shortly.
Mobile brewing is nothing new. It’s wayyyy older than mobile phones. Ha. But a movement, dare I say? Well, when one pursues the merits and regular practice of mobile brewing, I think we can fairly agree that if it’s not a movement, it sure should be.
First, let’s discuss the concept of a brewhouse. According to the Oxford Companion to Beer, a brewhouse “is the name used for the room where brewing takes place, but the word is also used for the vessels used in the creation of hopped wort for fermentation.” I take that to mean my brewery (brewhouse) can be anywhere. It does not just have to be in a house.
House is relative. Kinda like wherever you go, there you are, you know? Deep thoughts, I realize, but my point is valid. A brewhouse can be anywhere and often is mobile, especially for us homebrewers. Most of us are not bound by the larger systems bolted to the floor that take six people to move and a semi-truck to transport. We are light and nimble. Score one for homebrewing.
Shining examples of mobile brewing are Chris Graham and Olin Schultz, owners of MoreBeer!, a well-known online and brick-and-mortar homebrew retailer. In 2021, they hiked 45 miles (72 km) to the summit of Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the continental U.S., to brew a batch of beer at 14,500 feet (4,420 m) above sea level. In 2022, they brewed on a drift boat while fly fishing on the Kenai River in Alaska. Aiming to drink it on the last day of their trip, they fermented this beer hot and fast with kveik yeast to have it ready to drink within six days of brewing.
These two brewed at above 14,000 feet. They’ve also brewed on the nose of a drift boat. They flipping brewed, fermented, and drank that beer during a week-long vacation. Wow. Now that’s going mobile.
Now, back to my epic camper mobile brew day. I was in the parking lot of a hotel in Casper, Wyo., to present at the Wyoming Craft Brewers Guild’s annual conference. The first day I gave a talk titled “What’s Hot in Homebrewing and Why You Should Care,” and the next day, I was in the parking lot brewing a Belgian golden session ale with wild plums added to secondary.
Now when one mobile-brews outside, it’s obvious that weather can be a variable. In Casper, it was 90°F (32°C) on presentation day. Twenty-four hours later, on brew day, it was cold, rainy, and 40°F (22°C) cooler. Plan B time, people.
My outdoor-parking-lot brew day turned into an inside-the-camper brew day. No matter. Brewers still popped out of the conference center and knocked on my camper door to check it out. I’d politely kick out the current group of brewers sitting inside to make room for the next group (only five can fit at a time).
And so it went until the batch of beer was mashed, boiled, and transferred into a 1-gallon cutie jug with a towel around it. Then, off to the passenger seat of my minivan the brew went. Just as any precious passenger should be secured, I wedged it against the dashboard on the front passenger seat floor for safekeeping during the four-hour drive back to my home in Lyons, Colo.
What I love about this batch of beer is all the travel it experienced: temperature changes, sounds, vibrations, shakes and bumps of the passing highway miles, the music I was playing, and so on. All of that influenced the beer in some cosmic and tangible way. Yes, mobile brewing brings in more variables than does brewing in pristine, controlled, stationary brewhouse conditions, but that is half the fun.
What mobile brews have you made? Has your homebrew club gathered in a field and done simultaneous brewing while everyone camped and had a party? Have you taken your brewing equipment to a family member’s house and brewed on their stovetop, on the patio, or in the garage? Have you brewed a demonstration beer at a beer festival or brewed while on vacation? These all count. No matter the approach, if you are game for new experiences, challenges, successes, and opportunities, I encourage your next batch to be brewed mobile.
Here’s to firing up the brew kettle and ever more synapses firing too.
Please don’t be shy about sharing your mobile experiences on the AHA Forum. Tag us on social @homebrewassoc, or drop me an email at email@example.com.
Cheers. Julia Herz