I haven’t acquired a taste for beer, but I’m fascinated by how it’s made. That might be because there are brewers in my family tree.
Conrad Born, Sr., my first cousin five times removed, was a butcher who emigrated from Germany to Columbus in 1837. In 1859, he decided to change professions and open a small brewery at 47 South Fourth Street. His son, Conrad Born, Jr., joined his Capital Brewery in 1864.
On June 17, 1869, 25-year-old Conrad, Jr. married Magdalena (Lena) Moerlein, one of ten children belonging to Christian Moerlein, a brewer who emigrated from Bavaria to Cincinnati. Conrad, Jr., Lena and their son, Conrad Christian Born, lived near Capital Brewery, at 588 South Front Street.
When Conrad, Sr. died in 1890, Conrad, Jr. changed the name to Born & Company to reflect the involvement of his son and another Born in the business. In 1904, Born & Company became part of the Hoster-Columbus Associated Breweries Co. and continued to operate until the arrival of Prohibition in 1919. Conrad, Sr.’s daughter, Mary Ann, married George Hoster, another well-known Columbus brewer. Conrad, Jr. died in 1913, and Lena in 1930; they are buried at Green Lawn Cemetery.
I shared that story with a desktop support specialist at work one day. As Fred worked on my computer, he told me about his passion for brewing beer at home. After starting with a $60 kit and a case of empty bottles a few years ago, Fred has progressed to become brewmaster of a large all-grain brewing setup that feeds a four-keg draft system. He also researches and develops processes to use brewing grains to make bread and cookies that are low in sugar, but high in protein and fiber.
Since then, I’ve been sending Fred brewing-related articles that I come across in my professional reading, such as this Library Journal piece about the Oregon Hops & Brewing Archive.
Recently, Fred told me that he and three of his brewing friends were giving a live brewing demonstration at Buckeye Brewcraft, a local homebrew shop owned by Jim Downing, during Westerville’s Fourth Friday event. I stopped by to check it out.
As Fred demonstrated the sparging stage of brewing, pouring water over mashed barley grains to extract sugars and then draining it, his friend Scott showed me how his Recirculating Infusion Mash System, or RIMS for short, works.
Using a pump and a heating element, a RIMS helps to maintain a constant temperature in the mash — a mix of malted barley, other grains and water — during brewing. The pump recirculates the wort, or the liquid extracted from the mashing process during brewing. Because the mash is continually recirculated, the resulting wort is crystal-clear.
As Scott monitored the temperature of the water being heated for the mash in a large pot known as the hot liquor tank, I looked inside another big pot called the mash/lauter tun. Inside, I beheld the mash. Resembling a hearty batch of oatmeal, the mash exuded that same mouthwatering aroma that I admittedly take deep breaths of whenever I pass the Anheuser-Busch brewery on Schrock Road.
The wort left this vessel and went directly to a pump, recirculating about a gallon a minute. Once the wort flowed past the heating element, it returned to the top of the grain bed.
Craft brewing is booming in central Ohio, Business First’s Dan Eaton reports, so I took the opportunity to learn more about it by browsing the shelves of Buckeye Brewcraft.
Kits from Brewer’s Best include everything that a beginning home brewer needs to make beer, except bottles and caps. Its Beer Brewing Equipment Kit includes parts for fermenters, racking and bottling; brewing and cleaning accessories; and brewing instruments like thermometers and test jars. Its Beer Ingredient Kit contains malt extracts; specialty grains; hops; and yeast. Also on hand are a generous supply of spices, herbs, fruits and fruit flavorings used to enhance the taste of craft beers, such as Indian sarsaparilla, juniper berries, and licorice root. The company also offers over 50 recipes for ales, pilsners, stouts, lagers and other craft beers.
I eyed bagged and bulk supplies of barley and malts, such as Weyerman Chocolate Rye roasted malt and Briess Blackprinz malt from Germany; Muntons lager malt and pale ale tipple malt from Great Britain; and Dingemans chocolate malt from Belgium.
You can pick up small treats like B-Hoppy, a hard hop-flavored candy made by Ohioan Bob Bero, as well as handmade beer soap. Apparently, beer adds a great lather, malts are a natural exfoliant, and hops have skin-softening properties.
But the store’s star attraction was the first thing I spotted: a handmade wheat weaving. Mr. Downing explained that it was a “John Barleycorn” weaving, a traditional Gaelic design that is symbolic of the harvest of barley and the making of beer. To make the weaving, stalks of wheat, barley and hops are soaked, then plaited and twisted into two linked loops, attached at a central column that expresses the joy of life. Wheat weavings are hung in a home to bring prosperity, luck, happiness and health.
Buckeye Brewcraft offers introductory classes on brewing and kegging. To celebrate its first anniversary, the store is holding a summer wheat beer contest on Saturday, July 19. But beer isn’t the solo star of Buckeye Brewcraft. Mr. Downing also carries ingredients and supplies for making wine and soda.
If you’d like to read more about brewing beer at home, check out these recently published books: DK Publishing’s Home Brew Beer; Brewing Made Easy: A Step-By-Step Guide to Making Beer at Home, by Joe Fisher & Dennis Fisher; The Complete Beer Course: Boot Camp for Beer Geeks: From Novice to Expert in Twelve Tasting Classes, by Joshua M. Bernstein; and The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, by Charlie Papazian. The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution, by Tom Acitelli; Breweriana: American Beer Collectibles, by Kevin Kious and Donald Roussin; and A Year in Food in Beer: Recipes and Beer Pairings for Every Season, by Emily Baime and Darin Michaels, are other interesting beer-related titles. If you’d like to discover more about the well-known Cincinnati brewer in my family tree, read Christian Moerlein: The Man and His Brewery, by Don Heinrich Tolzmann.