SAAZ Club combines flavor with friendship
By Tammy Roberts
Sure, most people love an ice-cold glass of brewed beer from their favorite watering hole.But what if you could enjoy the same experience, concocted to your personal taste and specifications, in the comfort of your own home?Members of the SAAZ Club wouldn’t have it any other way.With a nearly 20-year history in Brevard, SAAZ, which stands for Space Coast Associates for the Advancement of Zymurgy (the study of fermentation), connects individuals throughout the county who share one underlying passion – brewing beer.
While the practice of homebrewing has been around for several-thousand years, its popularity has increased over the past few decades.
The SAAZ Club currently has about 96 members, made up of men and women of all walks of life. “Our members range from NASA engineers and vets to nurses and professors,” says Sean Gregg, a Viera resident, who serves as the club’s president. “Of course, we do have several members from local area like-minded businesses, such as bars, restaurants and homebrew and beverage stores.”
Members join the club for a variety of reasons, whether it’s to create a unique, more flavorful type of beer or simply because they enjoy the taste of unfiltered, unpasteurized, fresh homebrew.
“But everyone loves the beer and the camaraderie,” Sean says.
The club meets the third weekend of the month at various locations, such as the Cocoa Beach Brewing Company, World of Beer at The Avenue Viera, Charlie & Jake’s Brewery Grille in Melbourne and Broken Barrel Tavern in Palm Bay.Annual dues are $15 per person or $25 per family, and membership includes information about competitions and festivals, brewing feedback, as well as admission to four parties a year. Each fall, the club also hosts a homebrew competition, known as the “Commander SAAZ Interplanetary Homebrew Blastoff,” which has grown to one of the largest homebrew competitions in the Southeast. More than 300 entries were judged during last year’s event, featuring all styles of beer, cider and honey wine – known as “mead.”
Sean, who works as a mechanical engineer for Harris Corporation, began brewing in his garage as a hobby and formulated 17 different batches of beer just last year.
Like most homebrewers, he typically makes ales, as opposed to lagers, because they ferment best in warmer weather. His favorite concoctions? A coffee imperial stout and a cherry Belgian wheat beer.
“I love the creativity,” Sean says. “Don’t get me wrong, sometimes my ideas haven’t been as good as they were in concept. But at the end of the day, you are pretty much free to add whatever you want to the mix.”
Despite a common misconception, no type of license or requirement is necessary to brew beer in your own home, as long as it is for personal or family use.
“If you can boil water, then you can make beer,” Sean says.
And the process is a lot less expensive than one may think.
Homebrew starter kits, which include all of the equipment needed to start brewing, other than a 4-gallon pot, are priced around $70. Ingredient kits, which vary in price depending on alcohol level and variety of beer, start at about $20. Both kits, as well as ingredients for advanced homebrewers, are available at Sunseed Food Co-Op in Cape Canaveral, the area’s homebrew supply store.
Rockledge resident and club member Paula Sup has been brewing at home alongside her husband, Ronald, since 1989.She, a medical secretary, and he, an engineering technician, say they did not care for the “mega-brew company” beers on the market in the late 1980s and yearned for more flavorful beers.The Sups tried their hand at brewing some new styles and soon had a following with other like-minded beer-enthusiasts in the area.
“Unknown to us, this grassroots quest for good beer was sweeping the nation and feeding our need for good brew clubs – local places beginning to cater to their local homebrew populations,” Paula says. “We can proudly say that we have been members of four brew clubs across three states.”
The couple, married 34 years, brews together about once a month on their back porch or in their driveway, but also brews individually and with friends. “There have been several occasions where I’ve invited some girlfriends from work to come over for a ‘girls brew out,’” Paula says. “We’ve made all styles of beer over the years and love to experiment with different fruits, spices, grains and hops.”
Paula, a mother of two, disputed another misconception that homebrewing is a difficult process.
“It’s totally untrue,” she says. “You just need to start out with a love of good beer, a desire to create something delicious and enjoy sharing your wares with others. Good beer, good food, good friends – what more could someone want in life?”
For information about the SAAZ Club, visit www.saaz.org.