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Beer brewed in the engine

As Americans, we have no right to free health care, guaranteed vacation, or growing a crop of marijuana in our backyard. Nonetheless, President Carter signed a bill in 1978 that prohibited taxing beer brewed at home for personal use in the United States — excluding Alabama, Mississippi and Oklahoma — and folks, that’s better than nothing.

Beer has a rich history. The ancient Sumerians felt beer was so important, they actually had a goddess of beer, named Ninkasi. In Sumerian society, women were the primary brewers.

Fast forward to the present: Today, over 800,000 homebrewers in the United States alone are concocting beer, in one form or another, according to the American Homebrewers Association.

More important, Jacksonvillians, we have access to one of the only Brew On Premises pubs in the entire Southeast.

So if you’ve ever considered brewing your own beer, but lack the know-how, look no further than Engine 15, off Beach Boulevard. It will guide any sloshy ole beer-bellied patron through the beer brewing process using its advanced, on-site brewing facilities.

“The process begins when you decide which style of beer you want to brew,” said Sean Bielman, a partner and one of the brewers of Engine 15.

And the possibilities are only limited to your imagination, he said.

“You can take a fruit from your backyard, bring it in, and we can make a beer out of it,” Bielman said.

If you plan on taking a more conventional route, you can choose from traditional beer favorites like Pale Ale, Stout, Pilsner, American Lager, etc. You can also “clone” a commercially available beer of your choice.

Once you’ve selected your suds, Bielman said he guarantees a world-class beer, under the layman’s eye of Engine 15’s trained and experienced brew staff.

From there, they will help you follow the recipe, father and mix the fermentables, brew the beer and add the hops.

At Engine 15, you are the brewer, Bielman said.

Once the wort — a sweet liquid that comes from mashing grains — is ready, Engine 15’s brew staff pumps it into a fermentation vessel before it adds yeast, turning your wort into mouthwatering beer.

The beer must ferment for about two weeks after the brewing sessions, depending on the style of beer you choose; fermentation and maturation periods are longer for Lagers and Imperial beers. But don’t worry about your brew while it ferments, the brewers will lovingly tend to your creation during this process. Once completed, you will return and bottle, or keg, the beer to take home.

The final product will be a minimum of four cases of 22-ounce bottles of beer or between nine and 10 gallons.

“[It’s] half the price of paying for it at the store,” Bielman said.

Bielman said Engine 15 doesn’t make much of a direct profit by allowing customers to brew their own beer, but it’s changing the way Engine 15 interacts with its customers and the way customers interact with beer.

“Brewing beer is really just a way of meeting people and getting to know them through beer,” he said. “It’s about creating a culture of knowledgeable beer drinkers.”

Bielman said he hears people all the time say they didn’t realize how many variables are a part of making beer, and until self-brewers make their own beer, it’s hard to comprehend.

“People get to touch, smell and hear [beer],” he said. “It helps create more awareness.”

Luciano Scremin, another brewer and Engine 15 partner, shares the sentiment.

“What is Engine 15? It’s about beer. Good beer. And everything that goes with it,” he said. “It’s the full-circle experience. [You] can brew your own beer, drink some of ours or try someone else’s.”

Charlie Barbour, 30, business development director of MSP, a Jacksonville manufacture of diesel driven de-watering pumps, has brewed twice at Engine 15 and plans on brewing more.

“What I love about Engine 15 is they make it so unique than any other — what you would call — a production brew facility,” Barbour said. “It’s kind of like a beer hub.”

Barbour said he’s proof that, regardless of prior brewing knowledge, anyone can learn how to brew great beer with a little bit of guidance.

“I didn’t know shit about beer, I mean, other than what I liked,” he said. “In the process, they are educating you on the process of brewing beer, the importance of sterilization and why certain ingredients go into beer to create the end result.”

Engine 15 keeps up to 30 idiosyncratic, craft beers on tap regularly and is constantly rotating them. Whichever one’s your favorite can be made into your own batch.

Barbour said the first beer he brewed was an Imperial IPA, called Cigar City Jai Alai. Scremin was able to clone it, and it came out remarkably close to the Cigar City.

Barbour’s second venture was even bolder than the Imperial IPA.

“It was an Imperial Stout,” Barbour said proudly. “I go big. If I’m going to pay that kind of money to brew beer, I’m not going to brew some Mickey Mouse shit.”

As the craft-beer industry continues to rise steadily – and it is – we will hopefully begin to see more beer-minded establishments like Engine 15 form to help satiate thirsty boozehounds like Barbour.

“What Engine 15 has is really something phenomenal,” Barbour said. “There’s a lot of significance in learning how to make something as intricate as beer.”

If you’re a first-time brewer at Engine 15, you will need to purchase bottles, which you can rinse and reuse for all of your future brews. Recycled commercial bottles are not acceptable for use with its bottling equipment. Bottles are priced at $12 a case, you will need at least four, and you can purchase additional bottles for $1, should you need them. Bottle caps are included.

Labels can be provided for your beer, if requested, and you can either choose one from Engine 15’s templates or one can be customized with your own text.

A word of legality: First, you must be at least 21 years of age to brew. Second, this is home-brewing, and you are permitted by federal law to brew up to 100 gallons of beer annually for personal consumption or up to 200 gallons under certain conditions.

Also, the Tax and Trade Bureau has federal regulatory authority over beer production and has very specific limitations on what kind and how much help Engine 15 can apply while brewing. Check its website, engine15.com, for more details.

Prices: Prices vary depending on ingredients and complexity of beer.

Brewhaus Select – $90: These beers include pale ales, porters, cream ales, Irish red and stout.

Brewhaus Special – $120: These beers include IPAs, vanilla porters, oatmeal stouts, California common, American lagers, wheat beers, etc.

Brewhaus Premium – $145+: Such beers include imperial IPAs, imperial porters, double IPAs, beers with high alcohol contents and those with very long maturation periods.

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