WILMINGTON — When John and Michelle Savard moved back to Wilmington after attending college in Asheville they brought their passion for brewing beer with them and have seen Wilmington transform into a beer lovers delight.
The Savards are the faces behind one of Wilmington’s first breweries, Wilmington Brewing Company, but their business did not start as a brewery but a home brewing store.
John Savard first started home brewing when he was in college in Asheville, a mecca for craft beer and home brewing.
“10-years ago we went to UNC-Asheville. While we were in Asheville the beer scene was fast growing and they had a bigger better variety. Home brewing was a big thing up there and I didn’t know about that when I was living here in Wilmington … As soon as I was involved in home brewing it felt great, it was a way to express yourself and be an artist and a chef and you can make something tangible,” he said.
John started working in a home brewing store in Asheville while in college and when he and Michelle moved back to Wilmington, they saw a hole in the market that could be filled. That is when they started Wilmington Homebrew Supply.
“We moved back to Wilmington and I tried to find jobs in the beer industry but there was no beer industry here. There were a couple of good spots … but one brewery is not a beer scene,” John said.
There was a small home brewing store that had a few options for the home brewer, but nothing compared to the stores they had found in Asheville.
“We wanted to fully stock it (the store), we had 800-square feet and it was full. If you walk into our store you have everything you need to make a beer, you don’t have to supplement anywhere else, that was our goal,” Michelle said.
Home brewing 101
So what does it take to make your own craft beer? While the science behind it can be complicated it can be relatively straightforward. There are four main ingredients to beer: water, hops, yeast, and grains. Three of the four can be found at Wilmington Homebrew Supply (water, which has recently been a serious public issue, is up to the brewer).
For the truly new to the hobby, it can seem overwhelming but with a little bit of research and some guidance from a local shop, home brewing can be done by anyone.
Home brew shops like Wilmington Homebrew Supply generally offer all-in-one kits suitable for the beginner. These kits have everything you need to get started besides a kettle, John Savard said.
After purchasing the initial equipment, typically an investment of around $150 when it is all said and done, it generally takes a few weeks to go from grain to glass.
Most homebrewers are making about 5 gallons or so for each brew session. After the startup costs associated with home brewing, each additional brew can cost anywhere from $30-60 depending on the amount of ingredients used. This comes out to about 80-cents per bottle on average, John said.
For those who have never brewed a beer before the options can seem intimidating but there are plenty of local groups, as well as help from home brewing stores to get you started.
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