FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Since deciding last November to learn to brew their own beer, Fairfield resident Daniel Latham and friend John Wagner are enjoying their first taste of success.
They have already brewed 25 gallons of beer out of Wagner’s kitchen and garage in Black Rock. And Latham has been asked to be a guest brewer at Stamford’s Half Full Brewery for its Rare Beer event Feb. 17.
They got their start after Wagner’s wife bought him a kit for their anniversary, and the friends took a class at Maltose Express in Monroe.
Latham said he wanted to be able to make beers he loved but couldn’t easily get, such as Heady Topper from the Alchemist brewery, which can be purchased only at its cannery in Vermont.
“I thought, 'Wouldn’t it be great if I could make that any time I want,'” Latham said.
Most of what they brew comes from a clone kit they buy at Maltose. The base will brew a beer that is pretty close to the original – they have brewed the Heady Topper twice. But after they figured out the brewing process, they started to make modifications.
“The bulk of brewing is waiting,” Wagner said, which is something they learned early on with their new hobby. But the rest of it involves a lot of math, timing and wanting to make something that tastes good, he said.
The friends have taken to brewing 15 gallons of beer at a time. They have spent about $1,000 on the tools needed to streamline the process and to bottle their home brews.
One beer they recently finished but haven’t bottled yet is a scotch ale that uses the same base that Latham used for his beer at Half Full. As Wagner took the lead on modifying the base to create a chocolate coffee stout, Latham tries to make a beer that tastes closer to Founders Brewery Backwards Bastard, which is only released for two months each year.
“It’s not copyright infringement,” Latham said, “because you’re not using the same ingredients as they do.”
The beer doesn’t turn out exactly like the one they’re trying to clone, but it will taste pretty close.
Their short-term goal is to start creating their own base for beer. Eventually, the friends said they would like to open a microbrewery or a brewpub, and turn their hobby into something that could make money.