Brewstoria members have a saying they like to tell each other, according to member Robert Shalhoub: “You can give a man a beer and he can waste an hour, but you can teach a man to brew and he can waste a lifetime.”
But after Shalhoub walked us through what homebrewing is like, it hardly seems like a waste.
The meticulous, five-hour process begins with grilling barley to “open up” the grain and ends with adding hops — green, cone-shaped flowers — to seven or so gallons of sweet liquor at the very end to add some bitterness and make it the balanced drink we know as beer.
“We make it in our own kitchens, basements and backyards,” Shalhoub said.
Brewstoria — the only homebrew club in Queens — has been around for 10 years.
The club has about 50 members and is meant to bring beer-enthusiasts together to learn useful techniques for crafting their own beers, hear from each other and other professional brewers about different aspects of the industry and, perhaps more importantly, taste each other’s beer.
“We all have a good time and have lots of laughs,” said Shalhoub, who has been a member of Brewstoria for five years.
The club got a chance to pour their own assortment of beers at the Queens Beer Festival in Long Island City, which proved to be a great success. So much so, that the 25 gallons of homebrews that they brought for the fest — an amount that was meant to last from Saturday to Sunday — ran out way before then.
“With an hour left on Saturday we were out of beer,” he said. “People were so excited because all the other breweries were offering two beers and most of them were an IPA or a light beer, but we ran the gamut — we had a stout, we had an oatmeal brown, we had a Gose.”
The club is looking forward for next year’s Beer Fest, which Shalhoub said they’ll be more prepared for. They’re also planning on hosting their second Brewstoria Queens competition next year, since their first one two years ago had about 150 entries from all over the country.
Until then, Brewstoria will be meeting on the first Wednesday of every month at the Rockaway Brewery in Long Island City.
Shalhoub, a resident of Whitestone, said that the local breweries have always supported their club. One former member, Chris Cuzme, even went on to open his own brewery called Fifth Hammer Brewing Company.
“The breweries in Queens are very good to us,” Shalhoub said. “They know us. They know we’re a homebrew club and they know that we’re good customers, obviously, because we love beer.”
The 51-year-old believes that Long Island City is the place to be when it comes to beer.
“I don’t think you can go wrong in Long Island City,” he said. “We’re very spoiled with quality local breweries.”