Maybe it’s in the water. Maybe it’s the altitude and fresh air. Whatever it is, the Mogollon Rim has a unique place in the world of beverages. Historically, the area had a reputation during Prohibition of producing some of the best bootleg liquor around.
Many a pioneer family made a fair share of its annual income with the production of “Payson Dew.” It was such a prosperous industry — with much of the product shipped to California — some of the bottles even boasted labels with the words “Payson Dew.”
The dawn of a new golden age for backyard brewing seems to be at hand.
John Gould, brewmeister for the upcoming First Annual Home Brewers Beer Tasting planned for the Oktoberfest at Down the Street Art Gallery Oct. 3, said there are at least 40 home brewers tucked in and around the Rim Country. He is one of them. Though as brewers go, he is still a novice. He estimates he has only been making his own beer for about 18 months. Other residents he knows of have been brewing beer for at least 15 years.
Gould became involved in home brewing by way of helping out a friend.
“A neighbor, Patty Morris, really likes an Alaskan dark beer, but she couldn’t find it anywhere,” he said.
“So, I checked at the Beverage House (now Beverage Place) and found it for her. On my way out I saw a stack of Mr. Beer home brewing kits and decided to get one.”
He made his first batch of beer in his kitchen and the smell of the hops just blew him away.
“It was like someone had given me the gift of a new car,” he said.
He was hooked, though he hardly drinks any of his brews. He gives most of his creations away.
The Mr. Beer kit, which is made by a company in Tucson, had everything: a little keg, the bottles and a mix with all the ingredients.
“I started e-mailing back and forth with them and ordered all different kinds of mixes.”
He picked and tried what sounded interesting, such as Irish Stout and Cowboy Lager.
He moved things out of a storage room and is turning it into his home brewery. It has a refrigerator, a small sink with running water, a workstation, his laptop computer and shelves for storage.
The retired painter and dry waller is putting in a floating floor right now, plus making some different brews for the Oktoberfest event at Down the Street Art Gallery. He said he is planning to share his East Verde Brewery Newcastle Brown and Porter. He will have about 100 bottles of beer at the Oct. 3 event.
These creations are from kits he has ordered from the Brew Craft company in New Zealand.
Like those occasional bottles of Payson Dew, Gould has a label for his products. His is designed by his wife, Peggy, and features a photo of the East Verde, which he took, and a humorous portrait of himself when his hair was longer.
“The brewer who wins the People’s Choice Award gets a painting. I don’t need a painting. I’m a painter. My wife’s a painter.”
Gould just wants to get the Rim Country’s home brewers to come out of the woodwork and share their creations with their neighbors. He also wants to start a brew club.
“With all the experience we have around here, we can all learn a lot from each other and we can share it with people who are interested in getting started.”
He stressed he wants women to feel free to participate as well.
“Women were the first to make beer,” he said. “Men didn’t start making it until much later.”
Anyone interested in learning more about home brewing can go online.
“There are tremendous resources on the Internet,” Gould said.
There are also quite a number of publications available. Among those Gould gets are Zymurgy and BeerAdvocate.
“Craft beers, not the commercial stuff, have four times the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as dark wine. Scientific research, including work done at Harvard, shows these beers have great health benefits.”
When the monks of old would go on long fasts, they would still drink beer for its nutrition value, he said.
“It was called liquid bread.”
Home brewing is not an especially expensive hobby, Gould said. He spent less than $40 on his first kit. On average, with shipping and handling, the cost is $35 to $45 for a kit, which will make between 22 and 52 bottles
“With the kits it comes out to 45 to 50 cents a bottle. They are a great way for a beginner to get started.”
One of his favorite sources for materials is the Homebrew Depot in Mesa. He said there is a similar supplier in Flagstaff, but he has not used it.
His next venture is going to be all-grain beer. That will cost about 25 cents a bottle.
“You start with the raw grain, cook it yourself and go from there,” he said.
He urges everyone to come out for the Friday, Oct. 3 Oktoberfest Home Brewers Beer Tasting at Down the Street Art Gallery, 703 W. Main St. in Payson.
Anyone interested in participating can contact him at (928) 468-2384 or Dan Basinski at (928) 978-2365.
“Or they can just show up with a table and their beer,” he said.
Brewers will not be charged to participate.
For more information about the planned home brew club, call Gould or contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.