MATTOON (AP) – When it comes to producing beer, Glen Forneris doesn’t need a massive brewery, giant kettles or frogs croaking in a round.
All he needs are his house, some basic supplies and good old-fashioned ingenuity.
Forneris, who works as an outpatient therapist at Lifelinks, is a therapist by day, brewer by night, he said. He’s part of the Mattoon Area Society of Homebrewers, a group comprised of more than 10 members who meet to discuss and sample each other’s beers.
Homebrewing is growing in popularity, with approximately 1.2 million Americans producing a total of 2 million barrels a year, about 1 percent of all production in the U.S., according to the American Homebrewers Association.
The movement is planting roots in the Mattoon/Charleston area, Forneris said.
“The craft beer movement is just kind of coming to Mattoon/Charleston ... I don’t know if people have a taste for craft beer yet, but [area stores] are just kind of scratching the surface,” he said.
Although the area has a large student population during the school year, thanks to Eastern Illinois University and Lake Land College, some students might be more interested in the effects of alcohol, rather than the diversity of taste available in alcoholic beverages, he said.
Forneris made a unique entry into homebrewing 10 years ago.
“I got started making honeywine back when I was in college for a medieval game that I participated in,” he said. “A friend just kept nagging me to brew, and we did. From then on ,I was hooked.”
His parents then entered him into a Beer of the Month club, allowing him to sample various types of beer. Forneris went on to enter his first beer in a contest and scored 26 points out of 50. Although he decided he’s not a big fan of competitions – “why pay someone else to drink my beer when I can drink it,” he said – a contest can be good for new brewers.
“You can get some really good feedback by people who have been brewing for a long time,” he said.
Forneris continued to brew and experiment with different strengths of beer. He designed “His” and “Hers” beers for his wedding and handed them out to guests. And he’s been asked to make up a batch as a birthday gift on several occasions.
The actual process, from idea to beer in hand, can take about a month, Forneris said. He purchases his own malt extract and barley; he grows his hops in the backyard garden, right next to the tomatoes. Forneris has repurposed common household items for the brewing process – for example, he converted an igloo cooler into a strainer.
Even though there are startup costs involved for the equipment, this homegrown process ultimately comes out to 50 cents to $1 a bottle, Forneris said.
“You’re definitely going to be saving money,” he said. “And you can brew exactly what you want.”
With interest growing in the process, Forneris has started an actual brewing class – Homebrewing 101 – at Lake Land, and it meets once a week for 4 weeks and then meets for a homebrewing demonstration the fifth week. Students come back several weeks later to sample each others’ “projects.” And the club has grown, with members and their spouses active in group outings, he said.
“We’ve got people from all walks of life,” he said. “Guys in their 20s up to guys in their 40s ... we’ve got a variety of brewing experience levels as well.”
Although he enjoys the process, the startup costs for a full-fledged brewery can be in the six-figure range, so Forneris will remain local for now – unless he wins the lottery, he said. He encourages anyone who is interested to give the process a shot.
“It might seem overwhelming, but it’s really not that difficult,” he said.