DIY is all the rage in the wedding scene these days, and that’s a very good thing. It could be due to the rise of Pinterest, or the less-than-accommodating financial reality for young couples, or the fact that making your own stuff is just cool — but regardless, the motto for many soon-to-be newlyweds is “DIY ’til Death Do Us Part.”
That do-it-yourself sensibility is also what drives many to take up homebrewing. And for those about to get married, that includes homebrewing for all the wedding guests, too.
I’m planning my own wedding that’s to take place next April. While the date is just over a year away, I know the time to kick planning into full-force is now. So far I have my dress and, oddly enough, my napkins.
(I told a woman at my part-time job that I was getting married, and she went home and returned promptly with a garbage bag full of tied-up canvas napkins. They were left over from her daughter’s wedding. I don’t know yet if I’ll actually use them, but I’m tempted to plan the entire wedding around the secondhand napkins just to say that I did.)
Aside from the dress and the napkins, the only other thing I have is a plan for my fiancé and I to brew our own wedding beer. Currently, that’s the prospect we’re most excited about, other than actually being married.
Neither of us have ever brewed anything except coffee, so we don’t want to jump head-first into homebrewing and use our wedding guests as test subjects for our first homemade beer. Instead, I’ve been doing some research on the best ways to start brewing your own beer on the Shore, particularly for a big event like this one.
With any luck, this investigative stage is only the first phase of my learning-to-brew process. Stay tuned for part two.
Going it alone?
It’s a small investment, but anyone who sets their mind to it can become a decent homebrewer in a year’s time. I will not be one of those people.
As Xtreme Brewing co-owner Patti Griffith says, “technically whoever pitches the yeast is the beer maker.” Xtreme Brewing is about to start offering classes to couples who are new to the brewing process but want to make their own beer for their big day.
Brewing classes, an essentially do-it-yourself process with some oversight from an instructor, are one way to dip your toes into homebrewing.
Griffith also recommends brewing kits for those who want to brew a wedding beer at home but don’t want to create a whole new recipe from scratch.
“Someone compared it once like hamburgers to me,” she said. “You make hamburgers at home but you still go out and buy a hamburger. There’s just something about being able to do it yourself.”
She added that even when using a kit, you can switch up the recipe to give it a more personal touch. “You’re able to just change it up a little bit. There’s an unlimited number of recipes for beer that you can do.”
Besides taking a class, another option is to become friends with a brewery owner and get them to help you. Okay, not really, but that’s what’s worked for friends of 3rd Wave Brewing Co.
In the spring of 2013, two of 3rd Wave’s best customers approached brewery co-owner Lori Clough about making a special beer for their wedding. Clough said sure, but the couple would have to come in and help.
“They were all in, couldn’t wait to come in and help brew the beer,” she said. “So we brewed Ever After pilsner. They’re still married, two children — they were actually sitting in here yesterday.”
Since the word got out, 3rd Wave has had to limit themselves to one or two wedding beers a year, and only for friends of the brewery. But any couple can utilize the creative and personal touches that have come out of 3rd Wave’s wedding beers.
One couple brewed their beer with persimmons from their yard, and every couple that brews with 3rd Wave has to name their beer. That’s when things really get creative.
“One was called “More,” because he wanted everyone at the wedding to go, ‘Can I have some More?'” Clough recalled. “Another one was “Poe Some Moore,” because his name was Poe and her name was Moore.”
Picking a crowd-pleaser
Clough and Griffith have the same advice for couples who do decide to brew their own wedding beer: pick a beer that everyone will like.
Griffith recommends the couple have three brews on tap for the big day. (They can also be bottled, but kegs tend to be cheaper and easier for events like these).
She tends to steer couples away from higher-alcohol beers, like double IPAs, where guests are more likely to over-consume without realizing it.
Another problem with the double IPA (one of my favorites, unfortunately) and other hoppy beers is that you’re likely to have a lot left over.
When couples tell Clough that they want a super hoppy IPA for their wedding, she says, “That’s great, but you and three other people are going to drink that. If you’re having a wedding and you’re having family, your parents, your grandparents, you really need something a little more mainline.”
She then guides them to lighter beers like pilsners, blonde ales and saisons. In Clough’s case, she also needs it to be a beer that she can sell to customers and that fits in with 3rd Wave’s current lineup.
Griffith also leads people to choosing a lighter beer, “like a cream ale or a Belgian Blonde,” she said. Not necessarily a Coors Light or that dreaded “B word,” but something that’s easy drinking.
If a couple decides to brew her recommended three beers, she said, then the second could be something more middle-of-the-road, like red or malty beer. The third could be a simple IPA, or in the wintertime, a light stout.
It’s important to keep the demographic of your guests in mind when choosing the beers. 100 people in their 20s, Griffith said, is a lot different than a group with many guests in their 70s and 80s or many guests who just don’t drink.
“If you’re fine with having the beer afterwards for an after-party or the next day, then you don’t really care as much,” she said. “But three beers, three types of beers, will usually cover you pretty good.”
Keep it light, keep your demographic in mind and give yourself plenty of time to perfect the wedding recipe if brewing from scratch. On your wedding day, the last thing you want to be worrying about is beer quality.