Bel Air man sells others on hobby

THE BUSINESS OF BREWING

February 24, 1993|By Frank Lynch | Frank Lynch,Staff Writer

Rudy Modock stands in the kitchen of his Bel Air apartment preparing to brew another 5 gallons of Canadian Ale.

He is surrounded by kettles, thermometers, strainers, fermenters, siphons, hydrometers, brushes, spoons, bottles and other utensils and ingredients used to make beer.

This portion of the process, he explains, would take a little more than an hour. He says the entire process -- from brewing to consuming -- takes an average of three weeks.

Seems like a long wait for a cold one but not to someone who gets as much enjoyment out of brewing as he does drinking the product. To Mr. Modock it's the challenge of making a better bottle of beer.

Until two months ago the Canton, Ohio, native brewed beer as a hobby. He then lost his middle management job with a radiology lab. He and his wife, Alice, who have lived in Harford County for nearly two years, looked at their options and decided to turn a hobby into a business.

While Mr. Modock deals with the customers, his wife handles the office duties.

The couple met while serving in the Navy. Mr. Modock entered the service after high school and stayed 10 years, stationed everywhere from Japan to Italy. Mrs. Modock, a native of San Antonio, spent five years in the military.

"The decision was not as difficult as you might think," he says as he cleans equipment while 3 gallons of water in the brew kettle is slowly coming to a boil. "We really like living in this area and, rather than seek employment that might necessitate another move, we decided to turn this hobby into an income-producer.

"We ran some numbers through our home computer and decided we could survive comfortably and, in the process, introduce others to this hobby."

As he talks, he carefully lifts the boiling water from the stove and pours it into a fermenter -- a huge glass bottle with a lid.

The water, he explains, is being poured from a height of 3 to 5 feet to add oxygen to it. Boiling removes oxygen from water.

He then sets the bottle aside and fills the brew kettle with 2 gallons of cold water. Later, he empties a packet of Burton Salts and a premeasured muslin bag of grain into the water.

"Home brewing is both an art form and a hobby," he says as he brings the 2 gallons to a slow boil, "and best of all, it's easy. I've been doing this for 10 years.

"If you can follow a cookbook recipe to make a dinner, you can follow a similar recipe to brew your favorite beer or wine."

As he removes the now-boiling 2-gallon container from the stove he says he will let it set from 10 to 15 minutes to allow enough time "for the goodness of the grain to leach into the water." "Leaching," he says, "is allowing the grain to dissolve by percolating."

Mr. Modock started his business by buying equipment and ingredients and selling them to would-be home brewers. His company, Bel Air Homebrewer's Connection, is the fourth such operation in the state. Others are located in Catonsville, Rockville and Frederick. "We started all our customers -- which number 200 -- with kits distributed by L. D. Carlson of Kent, Ohio," says Mr. Modock, as he slowly pours 4 pounds of Canadian Ale Malt Extract and a pound of 100 percent natural wild flower honey into the hot water. "I feel it is the most comprehensive kit on the market."

Mr. Modock says the mixture can now be referred to as "wort" -- an infusion of malt fermented to make beer.

He says the wort will boil slowly for an hour. At the 45-minute mark he adds a packet of Irish moss, an edible North Atlantic seaweed, and at the 55-minute mark a bag of finishing hops pellets are added. The Irish moss will help clarify the home brew by helping to settle out the proteins in the wort, while the hops will give character and head retention to the brew.

Mr. Modock then pours the hot wort into the fermenter, again from a height of 3 to 5 feet. He snaps on the airtight lid and inserts a stopper and air lock into the molded hole in the lid. Finally, he half-fills the air lock with tap water.

He says once the wort cools to 70-80 degrees F, the hydrometer is used to take the starting gravity and then the packet of brewing yeast is added. The fermenter is then placed in a warm, dark, dry room (he uses a closet in his apartment) where it will remain from three to seven days.

Once fermentation has stopped, the brew is siphoned into a bottling bucket where 16 ounces of boiling water containing three-quarters of a cup of priming sugar is added. When the sugar -- which gives the brew natural carbonation -- has dissolved, the beer is siphoned into bottles.

After seven to 10 days, the beer can be refrigerated. It will store for years without refrigeration. The longer it ages, the more mellow it becomes.

Bel Air Homebrewer's Connection offers free delivery, expert advice and recipes to Harford and Cecil County residents.

A typical starter kit costs about $85, Mr. Modock said.

The equipment kit and ingredients, which will allow a customer to brew five gallons of premium beer, includes a set of instructions, a 6.7-gallon food grade plastic bucket with a special airtight lid, a bottling bucket made with the same durable food grade plastic, an air lock that allows carbon dioxide to escape during fermentation, a siphon kit, a hydrometer used to measure gravity, a specially sized and designed bottle brush, a capper to put lids onto bottles, and a cleaning agent.

Types of beer offered to would-be home brewers in addition to the Canadian Ale are Cream Ale, Brown Ale, German Bock, Weizenbier, Red Bitter, USA Steam, India Pale Ale and Irish Stout. The cost of the ingredient kits range from $17.95 to $21.95 each.

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