FOR FANS OF true in-house beverages, homebrewed beer is a trend that extends to the comfort of your kitchen, with resources sprinkled throughout the county like high-quality hops in a boil. According to the American Homebrewers Association, there are an estimated 1.2 million Americans mixing up batches of beer at home, with
31 percent of these would-be chemists located right here on the West Coast. And far from the makeshift moonshines of
yesteryear, modern homebrews have the potential to rival your favorite craft beer.
Who enjoys brewing? Chris Coomber, co-founder of East Brother Beer Co. in Richmond, which opened late last year,
brewed in his Mill Valley home for seven years before going pro. “I gradually became interested in beer on a gourmand
level, learning and tasting the different flavors,” Coomber says. “Then I became a bit fanatical about it.” His newfound
interest took him to The Beverage People, a brew supply shop in Santa Rosa, where he purchased a beginner beer-making
kit replete with premixed beer primed to simmer in a pot on your stove — and that was it. “I just became hooked,” he
says. “I basically brewed alone, but my friends (who weren’t really brewers) would hang around, have some beers and
help me” — including eventual business partner Rob Lightner, the other half of East Brother. He also compared notes
with Marty Wall and Sean Cochran of J&M Brewing in Novato, Marin’s answer to The Beverage People. “They became
very important to me in terms of talking beer, thinking about things, and trying different ideas,” Coomber says. “Then
I just listened to a ton of beer-making podcasts.”
More Californians are keeping it local and making high-quality beer right at home.
And some have found a way to turn their passion into a successful business.
BY CALIN VAN PARIS • PHOTOS BY TIM PORTER