In past issues of this magazine we have looked at many aspects of the craft beer trend that has been sweeping the nation for the last few years.
We have covered ingredients, the beer making process, the different types of craft beer, craft beer festivals and the stories of individual craft brewpubs and their founders.
But one thing we haven’t covered is how the trend all got started in the first place, and what is still probably one of the main reasons for the continued growth in the craft beer market: And that is the individual craft beer brewer.
A common thread that runs through all of the different stories we have told about how the various craft beer breweries and brewpubs got started, is how the individuals involved were interested in brewing beer at home.
These individuals began brewing beer at home, trying different things and having successful brews that were marketable. And some of those people are very familiar to craft brew aficionados now because they went on to open a microbrewery or a brewpub.
But for every individual who was interested in brewing their own beer that took their brewing public there are hundreds, probably thousands of people who have the same love of brewing their own beer who simply do it for personal enjoyment.
These home brewers are the people that Brewhouse Supplies, LLC in Valparaiso serves. Brewhouse Supplies is owned by Jeff Blade who, you guessed it, was just another guy who enjoyed brewing his own beer.
“I home brewed for many years and I worked at Figure Eight Brewing in Valparaiso,” said Blade. “I was also in a home brew club and I realized that for home brewers there weren’t a lot of options for supply and expertise available.
So, I decided to start a business that catered to the home hobbyist that brews mead, wine and beer.”
Blade, 44, a Highland native, opened his doors in Valparaiso in September of 2013 and began selling the equipment and the ingredients that every home brewer needs.
At Brewhouse Supplies, home brewers can buy bottles and caps, sanitizers, corks and ingredients; and the ingredients are available either in pre-packaged kits for the more conservative brewer who doesn’t really care to experiment too much or in individual increments for the more adventurous brewer.
For the home brewer who is willing to take a chance and be a bit more experimental with the grains, hops and yeasts, Blade said he carries 100 different hop varieties and at least 75 different strains of yeast, as obviously different types of hops and different strains of yeast produce different types of beer.
Blade also offers classes in home brewing every other month for beginners and others who wish to learn more about how to make their home brews successful. The typical class size is between eight to fifteen home brewers.
Blade has also offered classes in home brewing sponsored by Porter County at the Fairgrounds. Classes typically feature education about the different grains, strains of malt and yeast, and their effects on the finished product. The classes also feature demonstrations.
Blade originally opened his doors in the location that once housed Figure Eight Brewing. But now he has located Brewhouse Supplies in a 2,000-square foot facility at 1555 West Lincolnway #102 in Valparaiso, just two doors down from where Four Fathers Brewing is located now.
When he opened his doors, there was a competitive supply house located in Valparaiso and another in Crown Point. But now four years later, Brewhouse Supplies is the last one standing.
As with most entrepreneurs, Blade, who is married with two children, held down a full-time job as a real estate broker while he got his business rolling. But since he has opened his doors at Brewhouse Supplies, his volume has increased 40% from year one to year four, so while he is still active in real estate, today it is only a part time venture.
“What we do is for the person who likes to cook and drink good craft beer,” said Blade. “The analogy that I like to use is that if you can make macaroni and cheese from a box, you can learn to brew beer. And I can help you to take the next step.”
“It’s an enjoyable hobby; it’s all up to the individual as to how far they want to take it, whether they use a pre-packaged mix or come up with their own original recipe.”
And for those of you who are curious, yes, Blade still finds time to brew his own beer. “I still brew in the store once a week,” said Blade. “But it’s not for sale, the beer I brew is still just for me.”
Brewhouse Supplies is located at 1555 West Lincolnway #102 in Valparaiso and the phone number of the store is 219-286-7285. The store is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm. The store is closed on Sunday and Monday.
Persons interested in learning more about Brewhouse Supplies can visit their website at www.brewhousesupplies.com, or they can check out their Facebook page or find them on Twitter.