BY CASEY MURPHY
When Scott Williamson began brewing his own beer at home six years ago, he was hooked. Now, he’s opened Tyler’s Brewing Supply to help others with their home beer-and-wine-making hobbies.
After seeing a television ad for Boston Beer Co.’s Long Shot Homebrew contest, he thought, “I could do that,” he said.
At the time, he was running a liquor store in Winona, owned by his wife’s family. After the beer and wine election in Tyler passed, the family, which also owned a store in Big Sandy, closed it at the end of 2012.
By February 2013, Williamson was working on opening Tyler’s Brewing Supply, and opened the business in May.
He was tired of ordering everything he needed to brew his own beer online and knew of a few other home brewers and winemakers in the area. He felt there could be a need for equipment, ingredients and supplies.
“It’s a fun hobby,” he said. “It’s addicting. … The DIY aspect of it is fun, too.”
Williamson believes the home-brewing market is one of the fastest growing hobbies in the country and he expects it to continue to grow locally, he said.
He sees customers from Palestine, Longview, Nacogdoches and Lufkin. He also does online sales and has shipped items to Alaska, Hawaii and to military bases in Germany.
He said people come in nearly every day discovering his shop for the first time. When he’s brewing beer, he posts it on Facebook and invites anyone to come watch him to learn how to do it.
“I wouldn’t say I’m perfect at it yet,” Williamson said of his beer making skills. “It was a good year before I started thinking my beer was really good.”
It took a lot of experimenting, and he continues to change something every time he brews a new beer.
“I’ve thrown away a lot of beer,” he said. “You can only make good beer if you make bad beer — to learn from your mistakes.”
In the back of his shop, Williamson brews his beer. He does almost the entire process at the shop, but ferments it at home.
“It’s intimidating looking,” he said of his equipment. “But I made it to where it’s simple for me. … I can set a temperature and walk away from it.”
The all-electric contraption includes a hot liquor tank, a mash ton and a brew kettle intertwined with tubing. The mash ton mashes grains to turn starch into sugar, it’s heated through a tube and transported to the hot liquor tank, which washes the sugars out of the mash ton before it goes into the kettle.
He said he made the rig because his home stove could no longer handle his large brew kettle. Williamson started with a 4-gallon pot on his stove and a bucket. He soon graduated to using a turkey fryer, then moved on to bigger equipment.
Some think brewing their own beer is intimidating, but once they learn, it’s easy, he said.
“I don’t brew the same thing twice,” he said. “I did 40 batches last year.”
Williamson estimates that he has made about 100 different types of beers. He also makes mead, a honey wine and a couple of other wines.
What he considers his best beer, an American-style pale ale, is now one of four beers on tap in the store for customers to try for free. He said because it is his favorite, he might make something similar.
“There’s always something you can change,” he said.
Williamson said brewers generally brew 5 gallons at a time, which comes out to about two cases of beer. The cost can range from 50 cents a beer to a lot more.
“I’ve never maxed out,” he said, adding that the expense depends on the style of beer and ingredients used.
He said most beers take about a month from brewing to drinking, but he has some sour beers still going after a year and a half.
Williamson sells just about everything anyone would need to make their own beer or wine, including several kinds of barley, corn, oats, molted wheat and other grains. He helps customers pick ingredients for their beer or wine.
“You can play with beer or wine that you make that you can’t with something you store-bought,” he said.
“You can make it as simple as you want or as complex as you want,” he said. “Sugar, wheat, hops — it’s beer.”
While working at the liquor store, Williamson started drinking the more mainstream beers before he began branching out trying different craft beers.
“When I started home-brewing, beer became my life after that,” he said.
For those who have tried brewing beer only once and threw it out because it was horrible, Williamson tells them, “Don’t give up. … My first beer was undrinkable. I drank it, but it wasn’t good.”
For those who are thinking about trying to brew their own beer for the first time, Williamson said, “You can make better beer than you can buy.”
Williamson has a BREWmergency service. After hours, people can call or text the number if they need something, and because he lives only three minutes away from the shop, he usually can meet them there, even on Sundays.
A local home-brewing club, Tyler Area Pints and Suds, meets at 5:30 p.m. every third Thursday of the month at Tyler’s Brewing Supply. He said there has been as many as 18 people come to the meetings. Everyone brings their beer for others to try while they discuss recipes, equipment, how to begin brewing and other topics.