First Posted: 4/16/2013
Pouring a round of his “Tastykake” beer at Sabatini’s during a Wyoming Valley Homebrewers Club meeting, Joe Arnone said his recipe could have used a little more peanut butter flavor.
That’s something the Exeter beer-making hobbyist wouldn’t worry about if Chuck Yarmey hadn’t looked at a Worm’s Way catalogue 20 years ago.
Yarmey, 47, of Wyoming, the Homebrewers Club’s founder and past president — the current president is Ed Elliot, of Kingston — started making his own beer in 1993 with a kit ordered from a Worm’s Way catalogue.
“After I made my first batch,” Yarmey said, “I got hooked.”
After he made that first batch in those pre-worldwide web days, Yarmey learned the closest place to buy beer-making equipment and ingredients was in Kulpmont, a 140-mile round trip.
“So, I started running a store out of my house in the fall of ‘93,” he said. But after one too many customers stopped by for last minute gifts on Christmas Eve, his wife made him move the store. So he rented a space in the Morreale building on Eighth Street. The business lasted until 1997, but the club he founded with 13 of his customers in 1995 has grown to be one of the largest homebrew clubs in the state today with over 60 dues-paying members.
Non-members are welcome at the club’s regular meetings on the first Monday of each month at Sabatini’s as prospective members or to sample homebrews.
Yarmey said member Jeff Fusco, 40, of Harding, “took the club to a whole new level” with an automated, hard-plumbed brewing system with a pump and external heat exchanger to regulate the temperature of the mash, the grain mixture that eventually becomes beer.
Most members brew with more primitive systems where mash temperatures have to be checked manually and which use gravity to move the beer to different vessels.
Yarmey has made hundreds of different brews, including the oldest known brew from a Sumerian beer recipe found on several thousand-year-old clay tablets, and one of his own creations, a wheat beer with cream soda extract which he called “Creme de Wheat.”
Yarmey doesn’t like to repeat beers. “If I’m going to make the effort, I like to make something different.”
Fusco’s a little more traditional. Though his first beer was an Irish stout and he’s also made mead from an ancient recipe, unlike Yarmey, he keeps his favorites, like his American Pale Ale, a favorite among members, in regular rotation.
“If the end of the world comes,” Yarmey said, “it’s Jeff house I’m running to.”
Fusco, a 10-year member, usually hosts the club’s National Homebrew Day party, which is set for Saturday, May 4 this year. Last year, the club made over 110 gallons of beer for National Homebrew Day and members brought food to pair with different brews.
Though he brews on the automated system now, Fusco got started more primitively with a simple kit his grandmother gave him as a gift.
It’s a familiar story. Arnone, who’s been a member for six years, also started with a gift kit, from his son.
Nate Miller, a member from Scranton who found the club through a national homebrew magazine, prefers the Wyoming Valley Club to a club just a few blocks from his house because he enjoys the Valley members and the club’s events. “They’re just a great group of guys,” Miller said.
The April 15 meeting was a special one to plan a trip to the National Homebrewers Conference in Philadelphia from June 27 to 29. Yarmey said it’s a big deal for the club to attend because the national conference is usually on the West Coast.
The Wyoming Valley club’s display at the conference will have a coal mining theme with a homemade coal car with taps.
The club hosts competitions during the year, runs summer and winter picnics, participates in local beer festivals and runs fundraisers for local charities. And Yarmey has the record for guest appearances on The Friday Beer Buzz, the award-winning radio show on WILK with Webster and Nancy.
Dues are $20 a year and $25 for couples. Add $5 this year for the added expenses of the National Homebrew Conference in Philadelphia.
Yarmey said the club’s mission is to expose people to homebrew. “People are under the false impression that homebrews aren’t good and we want people to know you can make quality beer at home.”
Proof of that is in member Mike Sexton’s Black Rye IPA which won first place over 60 competitors at a Bethlehem Brew Works competition. He was invited to brew there and made 500 gallons, a keg of which was on tap at Sabatini’s.
Homebrewed beer is high quality because it is typically made with core ingredients of hops, malted barley, yeast and water.
Yarmey said start-up costs average $100 for basic equipment and ingredients. After that for a minimum of $30, homebrews can make five gallons, the equivalent of 2 1/2 cases.
More more information, search the club on Facebook or go to wyomingvalleyhomebrewers.org.