Ryan Chartrand

For those who have ever stared inquisitively into the frothy bottom of a polished-off glass of beer and pondered, “How exactly do you make a fine tasting brew,” the Cal Poly Brew Crew may have all the answers you seek and so much more.

More than a club for power drinkers (in fact, not even close), the Cal Poly Brew Crew is tailored to students who are interested in learning about home brewing, the culture and history of brewing and the infinite varieties for making unique brews.

“The Brew Crew exists to further the understanding and appreciation of good beer while abolishing the idea of American beer as watery crap,” Brew Crew president and biochemistry senior Andy Hooper said.

“We seek to provide a forum that educates students who are interested in anything beer related – the ingredients, the science, the effects, the brewing – anything and everything; we’re a club for beer connoisseurs.”

Now in its second year, the Brew Crew originated as a small group of student home brewers who wanted to share recipes for beer, brewing techniques and their unique creations with other students passionate about home brewing. Former Brew Crew president and Cal Poly graduate Jeff Freitas was able to successfully charter the Brew Crew through Associated Students Inc. in 2006, Hooper said.

Today the club has more than 150 members and is continually accepting all people who possess either a newfound curiosity or a die-hard love for all things beer. And throw away any idea of fraternity-like hazing rituals, chugging contests, beer bongs, Beirut tournaments or evidence of a burgeoning case of cirrhosis to get yourself inducted into the club – the Brew Crew is willing to accept any and all students if they simply request.

The Brew Crew has weekly meetings at Spike’s Bar and Grill located in downtown San Luis Obispo, and those interested in joining can simply show up to the meetings or request membership through the club’s Web site.

What students interested in joining can expect to find at Brew Crew meetings is a “full spectrum” of beer connoisseurs, Hooper said.

“From those who have absolutely no knowledge to those who have a whole slew of knowledge about brewing, our club provides access to brewing hobbyists, historians and others who get together to share and discuss technical aspects, science, engineering, brewing chemistry and anything beer-related one can imagine,” Hooper said.

One of many popular topics discussed at Brew Crew meetings are the various types of beer that can easily be brewed on the Central Coast. Given the warm local climate, Hooper recommends ales and said the club gives advice and directions to anyone interested in brewing their own beer.

An important aspect of the Brew Crew is helping members find ingredients and supplies such as home brewing kits and bottles. Doc’s Cellar, a retailer for home brewers and wine makers located at 855 Capitolia Way in San Luis Obispo, has been “indispensable” in aiding the Brew Crew with all of their supply needs, Hooper said.

“It really amazes me – the level of intelligence and creativity the members of the Brew Crew have,” Doc’s Cellar owner George McClintock said. “They’re not your stereotypical frat boys or alcoholics but smart students – ag science or biochemistry majors, for example – and I’ve been really impressed with their level of interest and ingenuity.”

From cinnamon and cherry-flavored stouts to mango and chili ales, Hooper said that one of the first things a newcomer to the Brew Crew will find is that anyone can home brew beer out of just about anything. Whether it’s honey, wheat, heather, juniper or more obscure ingredients, you can make just about any type of beer with a unique combination of ingredients and expect profound and tasty results, Hooper said.

Or in some cases, profound but not so pleasing to the palette.

“My roommate once home brewed a stout with ginger, cumin, molasses, ground black pepper and God knows what else,” Hooper said. “It was aptly named ‘Goat Scrotum’ and, well, you had to be a true champion to take a sip of it.”

In addition to educating members on various types of beer, the Brew Crew also offers insight and expertise about different brews that are not easily found or commercially available, such as mead.

“Mead is anywhere from 6 to 15 percent alcohol and has a taste anywhere from white wine for the lighter meads to liquid honey for the stronger batches,” Hooper said. “It’s one of the oldest fermented beverages on Earth and because of its lack of commercial availability, it makes it appealing.”

The Brew Crew has fought long and arduously to have a club for beer connoisseurs to share their brewing knowledge on campus. It has certainly been challenging convincing Cal Poly administration that the club is strictly designed to educate, not advocate, Hooper said. It was even more challenging considering the club is open to students under 21.

“In order to get a club charter through ASI we had to ensure that there would be no drinking at our on-campus meetings,” Hooper said. “But drinking isn’t the point. The club is designed to educate students on what exactly it is they are consuming, its effect and, if they’re curious, everything about beer and how it is made and its proper, legal enjoyment.”

However, that does not mean that members over 21 can’t enjoy the product of their brewing endeavors in the company of fellow Brew Crew members. The Brew Crew hosts the annual Cal Poly Cup – a competition amongst Brew Crew members and non-members that awards home brews in several different categories – in addition to the weekly meetings at Spike’s Bar and Grill.

Aside from weekly meetings and the Poly Cup (which Hooper suspects will be held in May), the Brew Crew is also hoping to convince the administration to host courses on brewing.

“Cal Poly allowed us, as a sort of experiment, to create a course called ‘Brewing 101’ which the Brew Crew hosted all of last year,” Hooper said. “We had many faculty and professional brewers lecture for the course and overall had a hugely positive student response, so we hope that the administration will eventually make it a permanent course.”

A fitting proposal considering Cal Poly’s biggest rival, UC Davis, offers similar and extensive courses in brewing.

The Brew Crew will host their first meeting of the year at Spike’s Bar and Grill at 5 p.m. on Jan. 13.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *