Amateur Hour Is Over: NYC Homebrewers Go Pro—Sort of

Chris Cuzme508 brewer Chris Cuzme rocking his trademark T-shirt. (Credit: 508)

Most brewers get start cooking batches on their stoves, turning out ales and lagers that, once recipes are perfected, can be just as good as anything on tap at a local bar. Not that you’ll ever find a homebrewer’s creations on draft—legally, at least.

The legalities surrounding selling homebrewed beer are as clear as Bud Light. When President Jimmy Carter legalized homebrewing in the late seventies, he allowed folks to brew up to 100 gallons of beer a year. Many brewers slosh over the threshold, but it’s unlikely that cops will come knocking. That’d only happen if homebrewers sold their tipples. There’s a defined line separating amateurs and professionals: Are they selling beer and paying their taxes?

Vending beer is a tangled web of regulations wrapped around the three-tier system, in which breweries sell to distributors, which then peddle to stores and bars. Taxes are collected at every step. Plus, there’s the cost of acquiring a federal permit from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. It’s a pain in the butt to sell a pal a growler.

However, no law prohibits a brewery from producing a semi-pro’s recipe. “I want people to realize that homebrewers can make high-quality beer,” says Chris Cuzme, the former president of the New York City Homebrewers Guild, co-host of Fuhmentaboudit! and, most importantly, the head brewer at SoHo’s 508 GastroBrewery. “The homebrew scene still has a big place in my heart,” Cuzme says. “We have so many more homebrew clubs now, but even then, people don’t know that many of them exist.”

To raise awareness, Cuzme will partners with a different homebrew club or shop each month and craft a 50-gallon batch of beer, which will then be poured through one of the brewpub’s six tap lines. The first six collaborators are the New York City Homebrewers GuildPour Standards—Richmond County Brew Society, Brooklyn Brewsers Homebrew ClubBitter & Esters, The Brooklyn Kitchen and Brooklyn Homebrew, which will brew the first beer in the series next week. (The exact style is still undecided, but the odds-on favorite is that it will be an ESB.)

There are no limitations on the beers that will be brewed, except that Cuzme would like them to be brewed and ready to drink within a month. That means no barrel-aged imperial stouts. But with the weather breaking warm, I doubt you’ll want to drink such a bruiser. After each beer is brewed, Cuzme plans on holding a five-gallon keg in reserve for a “homebrew heavyweight tap takeover,” which will take place at the end of the six-month project. And if supporting your favorite local homebrew is not enough to get you to pop by 508 for a pint, here’s another reason: one dollar of every beer will be earmarked to the collaborators’ charity of choice.

We’ll drink to that.

The first beer in the series should be on tap at 508 by June 1. 

 More NYC Homebrewing News of Note
* This spring, Brooklyn Brew Shop plans to go pro with its EST line of beers. (The name is short for Established Brewing Company.) First up is a spicy Jalapeño Saison, a homebrew-kit favorite.

* On May 18, the Comedy Bar NYC will tap a new monthly series dubbed the Homebrewed MicProduced and hosted by comedian Ben Asher and The Brahery, the free show will partner plenty of homebrewed beer with comedy and brew-centric tunes from Final Gravity. I’ve hosted the Brahery on my homebrew tour and heard the band bash out tunes. At best, it’ll be a blast. At worst, you’ll get drunk. It’s a win-win.

This story was originally published on my Craft Beer New York app. Buy it here.

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