THE WORLD OF HOME BREWING has never been dull, but these days, it’s bubbling over with excitement. With the rise of interest in fine, artisanal and historic brews, area home brewers are turning their kitchens into laboratories, experimenting with ingredients, styles and chemical reactions.

The craft has gone from hobbyists tinkering in their garages with Internet-bought kits to home artisans brewing award-winning concoctions that combine passions for science, history and a really good beer.

Last week, the D.C. Homebrewers Club held an “Iron Mug” competition — basically, an “Iron Chef” for beer. The secret ingredients were white-wine concentrate and woodruff, a flavor substitute for hops. The winners, JT Thomas and Will Kohudic, both 40, made an innovative version of Berliner Weisse, a sour wheat beer whose recipe dates back to 16th-century Berlin.

Thomas knew this beer would be perfect for the competiton because recipes often use woodruff syrup to curb the tartness of the sour mash (the fermented product of mashed grain that’s been acidulated). Instead of using the sour mash, though, he and Kohudic used lactic acid, which not only adds sourness but also regulates temperature. Mmmm, beer science!

Another member of the Homebrewers Club, Martin Doczkat, has been working on a medicinal brew. Doczkat, a 28-year-old electrical engineer, developed a recipe for what he calls an “anti-hangover elixir.”

Brewmaster Ernesto Igot of the Clipper City Brewery in Baltimore encourages experimentation, especially for homebrewers with professional aspirations. A chemical engineer, Igot understands the role science plays in beer-making. In his home country, the Phillippines, all brewers are required to be chemical engineers.

“But here in the U.S., anybody can be a head brewer,” he says. Well, anybody who can make beer that tastes good.

“In this industry, the competitive edge is the quality. If you really make good beer, people will buy it. So, even if there are hundreds of brands in the markets, you will have return customers.”

For tips on how to brew it yourself or information on where to go to brew with a crew, wannabe beer crafters can check out

5 ways to avoid exploding bottles
1) Use high-quality ingredients
2) Allow complete fermentation
3) Use good bottles — insepct them
4) Calculate & weigh priming sugar
5) Store in cool, dark place

Written by Express contributor Suemedha Sood
Photo by Suemedha Sood for Express