Homebrew beer: From purge to pour

Homebrew beer: From purge to pour »Play Video

EUGENE, Ore. -- Eugene resident Denny Conn and founding father George Washington have more in common than a salt and pepper pony tail – they’re both zymurgists, or students of brewing beer.

If you ask Conn, he’ll jump to tell you that brewing one’s own beer is an art form for the ages and that homebrew is a tradition undaunted by time or technological advancement.  
“George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin were all brewers,” said Conn. “The science is the science and that’s not going to change. While we’re using things like picnic coolers they used wooden tubs.”
Conn describes the history of homebrewing while hunched over a tin pot that’s simmering with a batch of what will eventually be his famous Rye IPA.
“I’m kind of well known for my homebrew,” said Conn. “People have kind of taken after my technique and it’s spreading.”
Conn and about a hundred others are boiling, stirring, and sipping their personal brew batches at Oakshire Brewery in Eugene to celebrate National Homebrew Day. Established in 1988 by congress, the day is a celebration of a rich nationwide homebrew history.
“For those of us who love homebrewing it’s an art,” said Jeff Scharen. “We’re basically artisans making beer.”
The history of homebrewing spans from the pilgrims, to the founding fathers, and to prohibition.
“It was legal up until prohibition,” said homebrewer Tim Fries. “Then prohibition came along and people couldn’t legally brew, they did anyway, but not legally. So it was illegal in the U.S .to brew since prohibition and then Jimmy Carter made it legal in 1978.”
The basic building blocks of brewing beer at home have transcended time. All you need are some malted grains, barley and water. But here in Oregon time has brought some legal limitations.
According to Oregon statute, homebrewing is legal but has certain constraints.  Homebrew is not allowed to be transported from the home, it cannot be provided for the public, and it cannot be sold.
Oregon is one of 47 states that allow homebrewing. It is still illegal in Alabama, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.
Local homebrewers are aiming to change that law this January. They’re teaming up with several state legislators to draft a bill that would allow the transport of homebrew. But whether or not that happens, brewers like Denny Conn say they’ll keep Oregon homebrew tradition alive.
“It’s an art form that you can express yourself with,” said Conn. “I like home brewing because you can do it yourself and it’s very true to the spirit that people here in Oregon have.”