Originally Published: December 9, 2010 2:49 p.m.
PRESCOTT - In the beginning, there was beer - probably corn- or wheat-flavored.
Today, chocolate, licorice, blueberry and vanilla are just a fraction of flavors for home-brewed beer.
"You can design your own beer flavors because you have total freedom over the end result," said Chris Mewhinney, co-owner with Bob Frith of Mile Hi Brewing Supplies in Prescott.
"That's some of the fun of it - you can make your own recipes," Frith added.
Frith and Mewhinney are devout "hobbyists" of homemade beer. To hear them tell it and watch them make it - it's easy.
"Can you cook? Can you boil water? Then you can make beer," Frith said.
The basic ingredients are water, barley malt, hops and yeast. You can brew it for less than $1 a bottle in a kitchen, on a backyard deck, or in a storage shed.
"You don't need any special knowledge, but you can get very detailed in the chemistry of it if you want to," Mewhinney said.
"You can make it as simple or as involved as you want," Frith added.
The simple method is a brewing kit that includes all the ingredients and costs about $130. The involved method is called advanced brewing and requires numerous gadgets and tools and could cost upwards of $2,000. Mile Hi Brewing sells it all.
"Our focus is on helping people get started," Frith said. "And the best part is, you can relax and drink a home brew while you're making your next batch."
Home brew is not new to America. The pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620 more thirsty than hungry. They finished off their kegs of beer somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean, and included a brewery in their initial building construction plans, according to homebrewersassociation.org.
"Home brew is a tradition which actually began, at least in this country, with the Founding Fathers," said Terry Parker of the Wild Wild West Homebrewers Club of Prescott. "George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were both home brewers and their legacy has continued through the years surviving attacks from the Puritans, taxes, prohibition and mass production."
Parker said that Frith and Mewhinney are just what Prescott home brewers have been waiting for.
"Before now, a home brewer in Yavapai County would have to travel three to four hours to purchase grain, hops and yeast," Parker said.
Frith, Mewhinney and Parker met through the Homebrewers Club, and the three are on a mission to put home brewing on the Prescott map.
"One of the problems is that we don't have any sanctioned beer judges around here," Parker said. "I'm studying for my judges test, and once we have sanctioned judges, we can have some national competitions here."
Mewhinney and Frith currently have a booth at Eumundi Indoor Market, but their long-term plan is to open shop in a permanent location. Eumundi is located at 531 Madison Ave., off Miller Valley Road in Prescott, and is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
One of the benefits of home brew is that the brewer not only has control over its flavor, but also its potency.
"You can tweak the alcohol content and boost it with extracts," Mewhinney said. "I love doing that."