home brewing

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COLUMBIA - Keith Heckman has been a self-proclaimed beer nerd for as long as he's been drinking alcohol. It wasn't until 15 years ago, sitting on his apartment couch with his roommate, that he first considered making some of his own.

"We're watching Good Eats with Alton Brown. He does an episode on making beer and we realize this is incredibly simple," said Heckman, who know owns brewing supplies store Worts & All.

He checked out a few books from the library, picked up a starter kit from Cool Stuff, and made his first batch of beer, albeit with some complications along the way.

"The books tell you, 'When you put your hops in, watch it! There's a good chance it might boil over.' So I stood there and I watched it for a little bit, and went, 'It looks fine.' I went to sit on my couch, and then you hear it hit the glass top," Heckman said. 

Now, he's running a brewing supply shop with dreams of inspiring new brewers and connecting the ever-growing American home-brewing community.

Worts & All has everything a novice brewer would need to get started, from equipment such as stainless steel pots, ladles and spiggets, to more than 30 different grain flavors ranging from Mesquite Smoked to Chocolate Malt. 

He said that's not the kind of thing stocked by grocery stores.

"You're just not gonna find all these grains, there's no hops." Heckman said.

Heckman is also trying to supply knowledge and wisdom. According to the Home Brewers Association, close to 1.2 million Americans are brewing their own beer, and Heckman is trying to tap into that spirit here in Columbia.

"I'm trying to do at least one beginners class per month, and that's how to make beer in your kitchen - not a whole lot of equipment," Heckman said.

The classes follow the entire process of making a home-brewed beer, starting with boiling water and ending with a three-week fermentation process.

"I like to teach, and this is something I'm passionate about, so it makes it really easy to teach it," Heckman said.

He tries to convince novices that creating your own brew is easy enough once you've purchased all of the supplies, and that there's no one right way to do it. It can be treated like an art or a science, as long as the brewer is enjoying the process.

"If you enjoy crafts at all, or have a passion for crafts beer, it's either going to be another fun hobby, or you're going to understand and appreciate even the commercial beers that you have," Heckman said.

Worts & All's website has information on classes.