Ron and Mary Ann Jack brew their own beer and wine at their Copperas Cove home.

It’s economical and the taste is incomparable.

That’s how beer and wine enthusiasts who make their own brews describe their home brewing hobby.

Mary Ann and Ron Jack of Copperas Cove started brewing their own beer this past May.

“We spent time in Germany and developed an appreciation for fine European beers, especially Bavarian beers,” Mary Ann Jack said. “We could never find another beer here in the U.S. that was comparable.”

Ron Jack visited the local home brew store, returned with beer kits and buckets and tried to duplicate his favorite beer, Stuttgarter. After making his first batch, he shared it with family and friends to get some feedback on the beer’s quality.

Positive feedback

The feedback was positive, and Ron Jack was encouraged to try another version. He added honey and sugar to batch No. 2, making it a darker brew. Then he became braver. After his fourth beer batch, he decided to no longer use the kit and to make the beer from scratch.

“It’s easy to do a kit. Really easy,” Ron Jack said. “The challenge is to make it just from grain, yeast, hops and water.”

To date, Ron Jack has made about nine batches of beer. Each batch is five gallons and fills 48 to 54 beer bottles. However, three of his batches molded due to bacteria contamination.

“Extremely thorough cleaning is paramount,” he said. “You have to be meticulous about it. One tiny speck of bacteria can ruin an entire batch.”

Ron Jack not only cleans his equipment with soap and water but then sanitizes it in chlorine.

“You have to keep the kitchen spotless,” Mary Ann Jack said. “Our home kitchen is probably cleaner than a commercial kitchen.”

Ron Jack was having so much fun with his new hobby that he encouraged his wife, Mary Ann, to get involved and make her own wine. She decided she would try to duplicate her favorite German wine, Mosel Valley Riesling.

Mary Ann Jack has made four batches of wine, ranging from dry to sweet.

“We were going to make labels for the bottles,” she said. “But, we have gotten so into brewing that we haven’t gotten to the labels.”

Biggest expense is bottles

The cost of the bottles is the Jacks’ biggest expense in home brewing. But many of their family and friends return the bottles they were given as gifts, hoping they’ll get more beer and wine in the future.

George Duncan, the owner of Barley & Hops, a craft beer supply store in Copperas Cove, said home brewing is an inexpensive hobby to get into. He offered some tips to make it more affordable.

“Buy an introductory beer kit for $63 and it has everything you need to brew beer,” he said.

“We give you your first recipe. The cost is 50 percent or less than commercial beer when you make it yourself. You can make it strong, weak, affect the color, the character, and have various styles. The opportunities are endless.”

Herald/Wendy Sledd

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