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Saturday, August 18 News

Beer lovers shown how to brew the suds

Between 2007 and 2012, the sales of beer in the U.S. fell by more than 2 percent, according to a report by the Beer Marketer's Insights. Experts say the latest recession is one of the reasons, but another one might be the fact that more Americans are brewing beer in their own kitchens.

At least that's what some people in the beer business, like Tess and Mark Szamatulski, owners of Monroe's Maltose Express, believe.

At a home-brewing workshop Friday at the New Canaan Library, the couple told the approximately 50 attendees that it's easier than ever to make beer at home.

"You can brew a really good beer in your own kitchen," Tess said. "If you can boil water, you can make beer."

The American Homebrewers Association estimates there are 1.2 million home brewers in the U.S. and that two-thirds of them began brewing in 2005 or later.

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The Szamatulskis brewed a clone of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in just two hours at the workshop.

The couple started selling home-brewing supplies by mail in 1991. Since then, Maltose Express has grown and they now have what they say is the largest home-brewing and wine-making supply store in the Northeast.

They are the authors of the best-selling beer recipe books "Clone Brews" and "Beer Captured."

Having tried beers from several different countries, the couple said one does not have to go overseas to try a good brew.

"The best beers in the world are in the U.S., hands down," Mark said.

Tess agreed.

"America is the best brewing country now. It used to be Belgium and Germany, but I think America is No. 1 now because of the love for craft beer from Americans."

Not only are American beer lovers in the right place, but now is the best time to drink beer, Mark said.

"The best beer is right now," he said. "All the ingredients are better now, people know how to make beer better now, and you can get your hands in anything."

Tess said Americans are slowly going away from mainstream beer brands and starting to try more craft beer. According to the couple, Connecticut is still below the U.S. average for craft beer consumption, but breweries are growing here, too.

"There's still a lot people stuck around the old thing," Tess said. "But (craft breweries) are popping up all over Connecticut."

New Canaan resident Connie Dinning, who attended the workshop, said she always steers away from mainstream beers.

"I always order the beer that I don't know what it is," she said.

Her husband, Mark, said they'll soon be making their own beer after having the lesson Friday.

"I thought it was very motivating," he said. "It seems fun to make and fun to drink, of course."

At the workshop, Tess and Mark went over all main beer ingredients, such as hops, grain, water and yeast, as well as fermentation, sanitizing and beer styles.

One of the questions they were asked was how to balance the alcohol level when making a beer. Mark said the brewer must do so before fermentation.

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"It depends on how much malt you put in your beer, how much sugar you put in your beer. You have to use a calculator," he said. "For every pound of corn sugar, it's a percent higher for 5 gallons. For every pound of malt, it's .8 higher."

A beer-making kit, which they sell at their store for $115, includes a plastic fermenter, a 5-gallon glass carboy, a Universal stopper, an airlock, a bottler capper, bottle caps and brush, sanitizer, flexible tubing, a bottle filler, a floating thermometer and hydrometer, an instructional book and their clone recipe book "Beer Captured." Beer recipe kits and bottles are not included.

With so much experience in the beer business, Mark and Tess were asked what they think makes a good beer.

Tess said good beers leave you wanting more.

"When you look at the beer, you admire it, and then when you smell it, it invites you in and you want to taste it," she said. "And you start to get a little sad when it's half empty because it's going away. Then you get really sad when it's gone. And it leaves you wanting, but when you realize you have another beer, that makes you really happy. That's the mark of a good beer."

noliveira@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6582; @olivnelson

Nelson Oliveira|Education/general assignment reporter