Verona's Steel City Rowing Club fundraiser to showcase 'garage brewers'
Dean Hornsby already knows a lot about beer.
Hornsby, 44, of Oakmont, works for a craft-brew supply company, so it seemed appropriate that family members would buy him a home-brewing kit for his birthday.
What surprised him was how much he enjoyed the process.
“It was always something I've wanted to do, but I thought it was a bit too complicated, to be honest,” said Hornsby, a native of Australia.
He found it was much simpler than he'd thought, and he will have a chance to show off his creations April 26 as one of the home-brewers at Steel City Rowing Club's Brewfest.
Sponsored in part by Oakmont-based Ruffled Home Brewing, Brewfest will be the third beer-tasting event held at the Verona-based rowing club.
Ruffled owner Mike Stadelmen of Penn Hills has been a home-brewer for 16 years and although he does not take part in the tasting competition, he will bring one of his beers for attendees to try.
“I started out with winemaking and then got into beer,” Stadelman said. “It becomes an addictive hobby.”
Club coach Lucy Tuttle-Smith said the idea for the tastings came from Steel City member and home-brewer Pete Wilton, who will bring a kit-made beer to the festival, an India Pale Ale made with four types of American hops in honor of the sesquicentennial of the Gettysburg Address.
“Pete arranged the first one and helped with the others,” Tuttle-Smith said. “He's been instrumental in making it a success.”
The tastings function as a fundraiser for the club but also are a way to highlight the efforts of local, noncommercial “garage brewers,” such as Hornsby and Pittsburgh resident Jonathan Speicher, who has been brewing at home for about a decade.
Speicher said most people get into the do-it-yourself aspect of beer the same way: by drinking it.
“I think that's the natural progression,” he said. “You drink crappy beer, then you drink good beer, and you see other people brewing at home. I tried it, and it stuck.”
Speicher appreciates “complicated beers.”
“The first one I made, it went well, it was drinkable, it just wasn't very exciting. And I thought ... I can do better than this,” he said.
His favorite has been a Belgian dubbel abbey-style ale that included in its recipe coriander, rock sugar, exotic yeast and other off-the-beaten-path ingredients.
And while he is happy with his creations — including the dry Irish stout he'll bring to Brewfest — he has no designs on taking his brew commercial.
“It's strictly a hobby,” he said. “I've done it for 10 years, but that means I've done maybe 10 batches. I'll get it out for something like this festival, then I'll tear it down and put it away for six months.”
Hornsby will bring three beers to the festival: a Scottish ale, a Vienna lager and his most recent creation, an English bitter. Fellow Oakmont resident Tyler Entwisle will bring a caramel amber ale.
“I'm looking forward to hearing from other people what they think of the beer,” Hornsby said.
Tickets to Brewfest are two-tiered: $40 buys a ticket to the 6 p.m. pre-party with catered food, as well as the festival itself, which starts at 7 p.m. Festival-only tickets are $25.
Blind tastings will be followed by a vote to determine whose suds are superlative.
And while she is not a beer drinker, Tuttle-Smith said the club is also planning a wine-tasting in August, “which I'll be participating in at all levels,” she said.
For more on Brewfest, visit Steelcityrowing.org or call 412-828-5565.
Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or firstname.lastname@example.org.