On 1275 Kleppe Drive, BrewChatter owners RJ Hiller and Josh Dills are getting ready to host a free all-grain beer brewing workshop for home brewing aficionados.
BrewChatter started when Sparks native RJ Hiller was living in Fernley and his brother brought over a home brewing kit. Hiller quickly became interested in making his own beer and began experimenting with his neighbor Josh Dills. Interested in learning and improving their craft, the pair started a beer brewing club and slowly built a community of fellow home brewers who regularly shared their ideas about ingredients, equipment, and the brewing process. In 2014, Hiller and Dills found a space on Kleppe Lane and opened a brewing supply store, as well as created a regular gathering place for Northern Nevada brewers.
According to Hiller, you don’t need to be a chemist to brew good beer (or anything that can be fermented) and the whole idea of BrewChatter is to build a sense of community.
“We wanted to do something a bit different and offer more variety,” Hiller says. And while there are other home brewing stores around, BrewChatter’s owners wanted the ingredients and equipment they needed right in their back pocket without having to go through the whole supply chain.
“We wanted to go shop our own shop to get what we wanted when we wanted,” Dills says. Launching their own store gave them direct access to vendors, suppliers, and their catalogs without the hassle of going through an intermediary. They could then share their knowledge and processes with their beer club.
“It sparks ideas with home brewers, we can try different malts, and could shop different vendors. (BrewChatter) allows us to get whatever we want and then share it with everyone,” Dills says.
“We can pull in those crazy hops or yeast strains,” Hiller says about how they stock the store, and then come up with creative concoctions in an entertaining collective sharing atmosphere.
“It’s fun getting everybody to try new things,” Hiller says. BrewChatter isn’t all about beer, as home brewing is for anyone who wants to ferment anything. Maybe one month the group will try to create a hard-to-ferment rye ale, brew kombucha, attempt fermenting kimchi, or focus on all-grain brews.
Hiller pulls out a jar with some Asian characters on it and inside is a mix of fermented shrimp, fish sauce, cabbage, garlic, and other ingredients.
“One customer did a carrot beer, he used a lot of carrots. That’s the beauty of home brewing, you can make anything,” Hiller says. “And we serve everybody that is interested in fermenting anything,” he adds.
While Hiller can’t guess how many home brewers are in Sparks (maybe in the hundreds?) he acknowledges that there are probably way more home brewers here than one would think.
“We have a lot of regulars here in town and we ship everywhere in the nation,” Dills says, adding that they even just sent some product to a home brewer in Norway. A while ago, Hiller also started a popular online blog called Brewcranium where he regularly shares the latest brewing tips and trends and the best equipment to use, which has helped sell product for the business. In the last couple of months, the duo also began creating home brewing educational videos, available to view on the BrewChatter website.
“Now we have our idea and a community everywhere- which is exciting- and we ship a lot of our products to the East Coast, too,” Dills says. While BrewChatter has a solid presence in Northern Nevada, they are actually interested in expanding their online presence as much as possible in an attempt to compete with Walmart, Amazon, and other major online retailers that also sell brewing supply equipment.
“It’s hard, but we want to put it out there and show people we’re here, what we’re about and share our experiences,” says Dills.
Known for its fast and reliable customer service, BrewChatter sells mainly ingredients and then starter home brewing kits and equipment.
On this particular sunny spring day, the free all-grain brewing workshop begins. Hiller starts by passing out recipes for brewing all-grain beer and talks about the science behind it- going through pH balances, water bases, mash, temperatures, and ratios of water-to-grain for mashing.
He pulls out a Robobrew, a fancy brew in a bag filtration system with hi-tech temperature gauge and pours the hot water in. Within a few minutes, the steaming brew smells of hops and sweet grainy mashed potatoes; a recipe of corn and dextrose and Golden Promise English pale ale all coming together. About 10-15 people are in attendance taking notes and mashing the grains as other customers filter in and out buying beer brewing kits and mineral content. The group continued to mash for one hour, sparge, and boil the brew for another hour or so, and spent the day asking questions and watching beer being made in real-time. This is the whole reason why BrewChatter exists and welcomes anyone interested in trying it out.
BrewChatter hosts free monthly workshops on brewing-related topics that are open to the public. The next one will be a Yeast Handling Workshop with Imperial Yeast on April 20 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information about BrewChatter or to access the Brewcranium website, visit https://brewchatter.com/.