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Class is in session at The Philly Beer School


In a small storefront on Fairmount Avenue, a man who's passionate about both the beer he drinks and the beer he makes is spreading his The Philly Beer School on Fairmount Ave.knowledge with beer enthusiasts throughout the city.

As an amateur homebrewer and craft-beer lover myself, I was excited to find out more about the courses being offered at The Philly Beer School, a sister of The Wine School. I've been drinking what many consider good brews for the past three years, having learned long ago that, while Yuengling is good and is a step above the water-downed beers we grew accustomed to in college, beer goes far beyond drinking just to get intoxicated.

So after years of enjoying it at local bars throughout the city, all I needed was a little push from the parents a few months ago who graciously bought us our first homebrew kit. So far we have two brews under our belts. Before embarking on our third, we decided the Beer School's Beer and Homebrewing 101 class would be a great chance to learn more. The class has a cozy setting inside the storefront space, about five tables with four stools at each are set up for the students. Two wine glasses,coasters and what you might call the course curriculum for the two-hour lesson are The daily lesson from The Philly Beer Schoollaid out on the table at each seat. The classes are intimate, with no more than 15 in the one we attended. And whether you just want to learn more about how beer is made, or you actually want to start doing it yourself, the class is for everyone.

Dean Browne is the beer instructor at The Beer School. Browne is a brewer at the Philadelphia Brewing Company who started brewing some 20 years ago when a friend in his native Canada showed him a rather crude set up in his one-bedroom apartment. "Brewing beer was in fact cheaper than buying a case of Molson," Brown said, so he started is own journey. It's a hobby he still does today, but has also brought it to a larger scale as one of the brewers at PBC and also at Porterhouse. And when he wants to try out a new recipe, it usually starts out first in his homebrew set up, rather than on a massive scale at the brewery. "It's less expensive to brew 5 gallons at home," says Browne.

The evening started out with a few of his anecdotal homebrew experiences, and explaining the difference between the freshman Mr.Beer all-extract kits you can buy pretty much anywhere (I got my dad one two years ago at a Bed Bath and Beyond, only to be returned with an even better Christmas present this past year) - and the common homebrew kits for partial-mashes found at any homebrew store.

"You can make excellent beer with extract," Browne states.

This night, we would taste our way through the beer experience, learning with each sip which ingredients and steps are crucial to the beer-making process. But first, Browne gave us the run-down:

"Beer is made with malted barley, water, hops, yeast and sometimes fruit, herbs or for the more daring - items like seaweed and oyster juice," Browne explained. "The barley is malted to extract the sugars, then its steeped in water which makes "wort." This makes the sugar that the yeast wants to eat, converting the sugar into alcohol and CO2. But what makes the beer so tasty? Hops. The hops are added throughout the boiling process, with different kinds of hops to add bitterness, then flavor, and finally aroma. Once its all said and done, the yeast is added and its left to eat the sugar and soon - beer!  The homebrew process can take up to a month."

Throughout the four tasting rounds, we focused on the importance of barley, then hops, and "other stuff" which includes additives like gooseberries found in Williams Bros' Grozet, or the lemon grass and ginger found in Fleur de Lehigh by PBC. Finally, the fourth flight focused on the importance of fermentation and conditioning. In between each flight, Browne circled the small room, offering details on the importance of each step, guiding us through the brewing process, while we sat back and sipped away.

Anyone who's interested in learning more about beer, or has the ambition to start brewing at home, can learn from this class. Plenty more are also offered at the Philly Beer School.

For more information visit, http://www.vinology.com/beer.php

Contact Jessica Beym at: jessicabeym@gmail.com