There’s an old Czech proverb that reads: “One can judge a fine beer with just one taste, but its best to be thoroughly sure.” That’s the motto by which Lyman Deliguori brews batches of craft beer in the garage of his Richmond Hill home.
He’s not a snob and he doesn’t eschew all beers in favor of the finer variety — but he does take pleasure in his capacity to produce a pub-quality beer for a fraction of the price. It’s part simple economics and part do-it-yourself obsession, but for many home brewers like Deliguori, drinking the beer is only half the fun.
The hard and fast process is such: find or make a “home brewing kit.” Kits typically retail online for about $90 — an investment for someone who plans to brew often. Pick up a packet of malt extract, some specialty grains and a bit of yeast. Steep the grains in hot water, rinse, make the “wort” — a fancy name for the beer at this stage — add hops, chill and ferment. All in all, a home-brewer should plan to spend about four to six hours brewing and about three to six weeks fermenting his or her beer.
“My setup is all homemade,” said Deliguori who works for Volkswagen when he’s not brewing. “I even made my base brewer out of an old washing machine. The only thing you can really do to mess up your beer is not sanitize your equipment.”
And while Deliguori is certainly content making his own beer for family and friends, the only thing really missing is a home brewing community in which to trade and sample other homebrewed beers. It’s a community that likely spawned one of Savannah’s local beer companies: Coastal Empire Beer Co.
“Home brewing is a lot like cooking,” said Kevin Haborak, founder of Coastal Empire Beer Co. “There are a lot of people who can make something in their kitchen and have it taste like it came out of a fancy restaurant. On the other side, some people will cook something that makes you wish you went to Wendys.”
He knows this because like Deliguori, he also started at home honing and crafting the samples that would eventually be distributed throughout the Southeast. In 2011, Haborak’s popular Savannah Brown Ale even won first place in the 2011 Savannah Craft Brew Fest People’s Choice category.
“The first few batches might not taste very good at all, but it gets really cool when you start to make stuff that actually tastes right,” said Haborak.
Deliguori said he didn’t know what tasted “right” until he visited Western Europe as an English teacher.
“When I got back, I realized I couldn’t buy the kinds of beer I wanted to drink — they just didn’t sell them here,” said Deliguori. “So I just started brewing. I thought, ‘Well, why not?’”
As of now, a club exists in Savannah headed by Savannah Brew Shop owner Jerald Jameson. As treasurer, Jameson and others throughout the area call themselves the Savannah Brewer’s League and meet on the first Wednesday of every month. They trade tips, samples each other’s beer and share in a community that revolves around a singular hobby: home brewing. Deliguori’s goal — besides brewing a great IPA in his garage — is to find others like himself and start a similar community here in Richmond Hill.
“As far as I know, there is an interest in it,” Deliguori said. “But it hasn’t gotten off the ground and I don’t know why or how.”
To start home brewing yourself, find more information or help Deliguori start up a home brewing club in Bryan County, visit savannahhomebrew.com or call 912-201-9880.