A basement brew meister Microbrew: Jim Wagner has won dozens of awards in the past four years for his beers. The latest was from Brimstone Brewery in Baltimore for his autumn brew.

October 10, 1997|By Peg Adamarczk | Peg Adamarczk,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Jim Wagner has been on a quest for the perfect beer for six years.

What started as a young man's attempt to save a few bucks on brews by making it himself has evolved into serious study and the development of extensive home-brewing talents.

By day, the 27-year-old Riviera Beach resident services dialysis equipment for a Glen Burnie company. But evenings, he can be found in the dark recesses of his Chelsea Road basement, deeply engrossed in making beer.

Some batches are made to be enjoyed by friends and family, especially his wife, Shelly. Others are concocted with unexpected ingredients such as fresh orange peel and crushed coriander, to be entered in local and national amateur home brew competitions.

Over the past four years, Wagner has won dozens of ribbons and awards. Soon microbrew enthusiasts will be able to savor Wagner's winning entry in a regional contest and judge for themselves.

Harvest winner

He won the autumn, or harvest, beer category of a contest sponsored by the Brimstone Brewery in Canton for a few home brewers. Brimstone's 1997 Brown Ale, which its creator describes as a big brown ale with an unusual honey-malt aroma, will be on tap at many bars and restaurants in the Baltimore area this fall.

Wagner received no money for winning this contest. The heady experience of being invited by Brimstone's owner Mark Tewey and his master brewers to the Dillon Street plant to help create 460 gallons of his ale was the prize.

"I did not just hand my recipe over to somebody else to make. I actually got to help make it," Wagner said.

5-gallon batches

Buoyed by his success, Wagner has returned to brewing his creations in 5-gallon batches, usually twice a month, and is preparing to enter another contest.

As a member of three brewing associations, he spends a good deal of time perfecting his hobby.

The American Homebrewers Association recognizes 28 categories of beer and ale in addition to hundreds of unusual beverages such as ciders and meads. Wagner said he has brewed something from almost all those categories.

Through his hobby, Wagner has met dozens of other amateur home brewers, from beginners to advanced.

"Once you have tasted really good beer," he said, "you just can't go back to the over-the-counter stuff."

Pub Date: 10/10/97

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