Every few weeks Joe Catalano’s garage is transformed into a microbrewery. Catalano and his father in law John Laubenstein have been brewing beer together for nearly two years. They try different recipes and bond over the brew.
“He really likes the experimental side of it and what we do together,” said Catalano. “It really has brought us closer together.” “We always have a good time,” said Laubenstein. “He’s the one that really got me involved in it and he really knows the most about making beer but I’m learning as we go along.”
Catalano’s wife Kristin also takes part in the process. ”I’m not as educated with beer making as my husband and my father but I enjoy watching and I help out with little things that need to be run in and out of the house,” said Kristin Catalano.
On this day they brewed a German Altbier. The process started by crushing down different grains. Water was heated and the grains were poured in. The sugars were extracted so they could ferment into alcohol. After boiling the water again, hops were separated and added before the brew was transferred a final time to a five-gallon bucket where yeast was mixed in.
They’re not the only that brew their own beer. Brew and Grow in Bolingbrook specializes in homebrewing and their business is expanding to meet customer demand. Store Manager Juan Villarreal says one reason might be the cost of craft beer.
”You can buy a bottle for 10-15 bucks,” Villarreal said. “You can make a 5-gallon batch for 30 or 40 bucks.”
Head Brewer Bob Ward has made more than 250 batches in nearly 20 years.
”There’s never an end to the enthusiasm,” Ward said. “The customers come in excited to learn a new hobby. For me its been about camaraderie with brewing friends.”
Over the years homebrew clubs have popped up around the nation. Catalano and Laubenstein are members of the Urban Knaves of Grain in nearby Winfield. Board member Joe Formanek has seen the membership grow.
“The neatest thing about homebrew clubs is that people do share their beers,” Formanek said. “They share their craft. They share their hobby. They share their passion” With interest flying high there’s plenty of beer to go around.
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