Home Brewer Bob Hubler Samples Boise’s Beer Culture

By DIANNA TROYER

As he patiently plucks hops cones from vines on a 14-foot-tall trellis in his backyard in Caldwell, Bob Hubler daydreams about the beer he will brew with them.

“It’s not cost effective to grow your own hops because they need a lot of water, and it takes a long time to pick them,” said Hubler, 67, a retired accountant who has been brewing beer since 1996. “But you have pride of ownership to say you made beer with your own homegrown hops. The whole process is labor-intensive but worthwhile for the flavor.”

Hubler became a home brewer out of necessity. His favorite beer, Watney’s Cream Stout, was discontinued. He rose to a challenge like a frothy foam in a freshly
poured glass.

“What could I do but make a batch for myself?” he said. “I had to work my way up to it, of course. The recipe is complex. When I finished my first batch, it tasted better than what I’d bought bottled. Home brewed
always does.”

Then its evolution began. Hubler started using an oak whiskey barrel to age it, so now it has nuances of bourbon.

“It’s much better than when I first started,” he said. “I had to rename it, too, so now I call it my Fat Cat Cream Stout.”

To get tips about brewing, Hubler researched sites on the Internet and eventually joined the Snake River Brewers (snakeriverbrewers.org), an American Homebrewers Association  certified  organization  in  the Treasure  Valley  dedicated  to teaching  brewing techniques.

“You learn so much at our monthly meetings, plus it’s a great group of people,” he said. “We have about 60 dues-paying members and about 200 who come throughout the year to events.”

At meetings the second Thursday of the month, members bring samples of their home brew to share with others.

The popularity of craft beer has been growing in the Treasure Valley in the past five years, said Hubler. A new brewery, Barbarian Brewing, even offers a subscription service for its Old World style, barrel-aged and
sour beers.

“Every weekend, my wife, Nelda, and I can pick from two or three craft beer events to go to,” said Hubler.

Just this past October, beer aficionados enjoyed the state’s largest fresh-hop festival, the Hoptober Freshtival on S 6th Street in front of Boise Brewing, where 33 breweries offered samples of 66 different beers.

With his experiences brewing, growing hops, and visiting local breweries, Hubler wanted to share what he had learned, so he began writing a blog four years ago: boisebeerculture.blogspot.com.

“Now I have a good reason to visit craft breweries and sample the beer,” he said, grinning. “I have to let people know what’s going on.”

When he is not writing or tending to his hops, Hubler is brewing a new batch of beverage. His latest project is fresh hop pale ale.

“There’s always something new to make,” he said, grinning.

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