The founders of Brewtherville Labs — both live in Lutherville — were being funny when they named their beer brewing club. But they were quite serious about their focus on home brewing.
The members of the club gather in a friendly atmosphere, beer in hand of course, but the mood becomes almost studious as they discuss extract vs. all-grain brewing, bottling vs. kegging and things like gravity and carbonation.
Not bad for a group that only started meeting officially in January. Nearly 40 people have paid dues. Most come from Lutherville and the surrounding communities, though there are members from Canton, Annapolis and Hamilton.
Meagan Blank, of Timonium, joined as soon as she moved to town — even though she'd never brewed beer.
Gibbs Burke, of Lutherville, brought his father, Chris Burke.
Members are scientists, a graphic designer, an accountant, an engineer and a rabbi. Ages range from barely of legal drinking age to retired.
"We're not a beer drinking club, we're a beer brewing club — but we do drink beer together," said Michael Heitt, who along with Stephen "Stewie" Kinsey formed the club.
Although some members have been brewing their own beers for years, others have just made their first batch or are only considering making it.
"I don't know how it happened," Heitt said before the March 19 meeting at the Mt. Washington Tavern, now their official meeting place. "We got lucky."
Loves 'science behind' brewing
Brewtherville Labs got its start, unofficially, last Fourth of July. Heitt and Kinsey, both of Lutherville, were invited to brew beer for a mutual friend's holiday bash. They had never met until they brought their beer, Kinsey's IPA and Desolation Irish red ale and Heitt's take on a Kansas City wheat beer from Boulevard, to Shep Brown's party.
Heitt was impressed by Kinsey's Irish ale and got accolades for his own beer that was infused with orange zest and juice. "It was a real hit," he said.
The two home brewers got to chatting and Kinsey talked about an earlier attempt to start a brew club. The small group met a few times until interest fizzled — except for Kinsey's.
"My interest just shot through the roof," said Kinsey, who has brewed his own beer for 15 years. He got his start from a home brewing kit he and his wife, Susan, got as a wedding gift.
"The thing I love about this is the science behind it," he added.
Heitt, too, had brewed his own beer from extract kits since 1990, started while he was studying for his master's degree in clinical psychology at Loyola University Maryland. Once he discovered all-grain brewing, he was seriously hooked.
"The difference is comparable to baking a cake from scratch versus a Betty Crocker mix," he said.
Their meeting led to a couple of informal gatherings of like-minded home brewers last September at Grand Cru in Belvedere Square. Kinsey and Heitt picked the club's name because of their science backgrounds — Kinsey is a molecular biologist and Heitt is a psychologist — and because their children have attended Lutherville Lab School.
By December, it was clear the club had attracted enough interest to need a constitution, dues and a website. Now too big for Grand Cru, they were invited to bring their monthly meetings to Mt. Washington Tavern.
But the club is more than monthly meetings.