At Philly Beer Week, today’s homebrewers are tomorrow’s pros


When John Wible began brewing his own beer in 2010, he says things got out of hand pretty quickly.

“For the first few months, I was brewing every other week,” Wible said. “After that I was brewing a ridiculous amount.”

Fast forward to today, and he’s the co-founder of Old City’s 2nd Story Brewing Company.

Over the next ten days, Philadelphia will begin to celebrate all things craft beer. But behind the consumer demand for unique brews from around the globe are homebrewers who continue to push boundaries in an effort to experiment.

“Consistently, the homebrewer will offer the most unusual and edgy beers,” said George Hummel, owner of Center City’s Home Sweet Homebrew and a well-known homebrew author. “They’re the cutting edge of what’s happening in beer.”

Wible said that within two years of starting his hobby, he was still trying to figure out how to do it professionally. That meant brewing lots of beer, and experimenting with recipes.

There was a time, he said, when he had between 30 and 50 gallons of beer on hand.

Despite making the nearly full transition to being a brewer — he still works part time as an IT director — Wible still checks in with home brewing forums to see what’s going on.

“The homebrew world is really helping push beer in new directions,” Wible said.

Homebrewers tend to innovate faster because they brew about five gallons at a time. A professional might make batches many times that size, a considerable investment not just in money, but in time also.

Those experiments will be on display at Jose Pistola’s on Monday night for the 8th annual Extreme Homebrew Challenge. Twenty brewers will present about 27 varieties of beer.

Hummel said German-style gueuze beers are hot right now among homebrewers. That follows an uptick in interest in sour and wild fermented ales in general that tend to have acidic, astringent profiles.

Casey Parker, co-owner of Jose’ Pistola’s and Sancho Pistola’s and a member Philly Beer Week’s board of directors, said attendees of the event can expect some swings and misses, but hopefully more swings.

“All the great craft brewers started as home brewers,” Parker said.

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