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The Dish With Gish: Helping homebrewers get ahead

Cinder Block Brewery in North Kansas City has six beers available for tasting.

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The homebrewing hobby is bubbling over in Kansas City.

At least three new homebrewing shops have opened in the past year, and in late September, homebrewer Bryce Schaffter opened Cinder Block Brewery in North Kansas City.

Membership in the American Homebrewers Association has grown 20 percent annually since 2005, says AHA director Gary Glass, who credits the boom to the craft beer movement.

“The more craft beer that’s out there, the more people are inclined to start homebrewing,” Glass says.

Today the AHA has more than 40,000 members. Want to join the homebrewing club? Here are five local businesses that seek to advance the hobby — and unite the homebrewing community.

Cinder Block Brewery

110 E. 18th Ave. in North Kansas City

Every Wednesday (from 4 to 9 p.m.) is homebrewing night at Cinder Block, which serves beer made by Schaffter and former 23rd Street Brewery brewmaster Bryan “Bucky” Buckingham.

Schaffter and Buckingham say they’re more than happy to talk to homebrewers about their recipes and brewing techniques. They also give brewery tours and check out books on homebrewing.

Cinder Block also hosts a group brew about once a month — check the microbrewery’s Facebook page or follow Cinder Block on Twitter (@cinderblockbrew) for updates.

While you’re there, don’t forget to try a few brews. I recommend ordering an $8 flight, which gets you tasting-sized glasses of six Cinder Block beers. The Block IPA will satisfy hop heads, and the Weathered Wit is a good pick for Belgian beer lovers.

Think you don’t like dark beers? The Pavers Porter, with its smooth chocolatey flavor, could change your mind.

The Big Rip Brewing Company

216 E. Ninth Ave. in North Kansas City

About a mile from Cinder Block is The Big Rip Brewing Company, another microbrewery started by a homebrewer.

Owner Kipp Feldt and his business partner, Josh Collins, serve their beers in a cozy, bring-your-own-food taproom. But they also help homebrewers take their beer game to the next level.

For $500, you can buy an all-day group brewing session at Big Rip. The cost covers all the ingredients, use of Big Rip’s equipment, brewing help from Feldt and Collins and a keg of beer after fermentation is complete. Feldt says brewers also get T-shirts, glasses and Big Rip growlers.

The brewing session requires real work — but if you’re into coming up with your own recipes, it might be worth it. Feldt says one group he worked with asked if they could add rye whiskey to the rye beer they were brewing.

“We were like, ‘Why not?’” Feldt says. “It’s theirs. They get to come up with whatever they want to brew.”

Brew Lab

8004 Foster St. in downtown Overland Park

If you’re an amateur homebrewer looking for one-on-one instruction, check out Brew Lab.

Brew Lab provides a hands-on beer brewing experience for individuals or small groups (including bachelor parties). The employees can also help you design custom labels and bottle your beer after it’s fermented in the store’s cellar.

Experienced brewers who want to work outside of their house on professional equipment are welcome, too. And if you prefer to brew at home, Brew Lab sells a wide variety of grains, hops and yeast.

Apex Brew Wares

4380 S. Noland Road in Independence

This shop caters to new homebrewers with learn-to-brew days and easy-to-follow recipe kits tested by owner Jeremy Parratt.

Parratt says he stocks everything from brewing equipment to grains, hops and “every yeast you could possibly imagine.”

Parratt says he loves answering questions and building community among local homebrewers.

“Homebrewing is a community experience,” he says. “It’s not the mad scientist in his kitchen.”

Check out the Apex Brew Wares Facebook page for updates on learn-to-brew days.

Grain to Glass

Located inside Market 3 at 114 W. Third St. in the River Market

Like Apex Brew Wares, this homebrewing shop hosts learn-to-brew sessions and sells recipe kits developed by the owner.

Grain to Glass’ owner, Jennifer Helber, is a microbiologist who set up Boulevard Brewing Co.’s quality assurance lab. One of her new homebrewing kits is for a brew she calls Addicted Coffee Stout. It incorporates coffee from Kansas City’s own Oddly Correct.

Grain to Glass also stocks Spiegelau specialty glassware, colored bottle caps, and unexpected beer ingredients such as local honey and real maple syrup.

Check out the Grain to Glass Facebook page for updates on learn-to-brew days.

Enterprise reporter Sarah Gish writes about Kansas City dining and drinks every first and third week of the month. Contact her via email at sgish@kcstar.com or tweet @sarah_gish.

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