The snow was piling up in Steve Canali’s driveway Thursday as he raced around his garage, preparing another batch of fresh, homemade beer.
Cold air wafted through the open door, but Canali kept warm as he mixed the recipe’s initial ingredients: Belgian pilsner, rye and German wheat malts. He cranked up the heat on his mash tun, a container used to convert the starches from the grains into sugar.
His excitement for the process was apparent.
“At the end of the day, all I want to do is be in my garage, making my beer, enjoying myself,” said Canali, a South Lake Tahoe home brewer. “You know, I’ve got the music cranked up and I just get in my zone and just really enjoy what I’m doing.”
Canali is part of a South Lake Tahoe movement that involves more and more locals making homemade beer, according to a number of home brewers in the area.
The hobby usually starts with a beginner’s kit: a few buckets, a hydrometer, a thermometer and so on. Then a recipe is picked, and the brewing begins — typically in someone’s kitchen or garage.
It’s time-consuming work. Brewing can take anywhere from three to six hours, and the fermentation process can last days, weeks or months. But to those who are truly dedicated to the craft, the final product is worth the wait, Canali said.
“It’s one of those hobbies that, especially once you get into it, you just want to keep going and upgrading your equipment and making more beer and better beer and different brews,” he said.
At the South Shore, home brewing seems to be increasing in popularity, but it’s difficult to measure to what extent, Canali said. The scene now is too shapeless and scattered.
“I think the people are there, we just need to give them a place to gather and a place to show off their product,” he said. “Right now, they’re just kind of out there.”
Ryan Parker, who has been making his own beer for 18 years, said he tried starting a club in the area about a year and half ago. About 15 brewers signed up, but he had to abandon the project to focus on his family and work.
Still, it showed there is a need for organization in the home brew community — a need that has since been untapped, he said.
“I’d love to see another club started,” Parker said.
Answering the call for organization is Ron Buck, a local who has been brewing for the last two years, he said.
Buck recently launched a beer brewing workshop through Connect Community Education that teaches the fundamentals of the craft. The first class was held Friday night at Lake Tahoe Community College, and two more will take place over the next seven days.
“It’s to bring down the barriers, break the ice and to show people curious about it that it’s really a simple matter to make good beer,” Buck said.
Already the classes have received a strong reception in the community, he said. The class sizes had to be increased just to accommodate the number of people who wanted in.
With luck, Buck said the workshop will bring the home brewing community together and give it “a shot in the arm.”
“This is how I’m going to gauge the interest,” he said.