Chris O’Neal wrote this article for the VC Reporter, published April 2 2015
Picture the laboratory of a mad scientist. Frankenstein probably comes to mind or, if you’re really down –he rabbit hole of cult horror, maybe Herbert West’s Re-Animator. Now, toss all of that out the window. The real mad science is happening in your neighbor’s backyard at monthly meetings of the Ventura Independent Beer Enthusiasts, or VIBE, as it were.
On an unseasonably warm Saturday morning, several VIBE members were hard at work regulating temperatures and adding ingredients to the nine or so brew kits at various points of the brewing process. Jason Flair, whose sage peppercorn saison was a hit at last year’s California Beer Fest in Ventura, hosted the event with his wife, Georgia, and shared copious amounts of his many homebrews — an English mild ale, poured directly from a tap in his beer fridge, was a great escape from the inexplicable heat of the day.
Last year’s Ventura County Fair winner in the homebrew competition, Wendell Roberts, brought bottles of his award winning raspberry wheat, and also shared several ciders. Jonathan Raether and Talia Benson, who have branded their homebrew as UnionStache, were eager to share coffee porters and fantastic IPAs as all the while behind them a multigallon kettle boiled away, soon to be a Mexican lager they’ve dubbed La Flama Blanca.
The brew kits were, of course, mostly handmade and customized, resembling erector sets but much larger in scale, with industrial burners roaring to life below.
Andy Carter has been a member of VIBE since 2011 and is now president. Carter has been attempting to organize an “hour of sour” at the upcoming Southern California Homebrew Fest, which up until this year had been at Lake Casitas, and is now in Temecula. He says that the meeting at Flair’s house is a first for the group, which usually meets at Surf Brewery to discuss everything from brewing techniques to what an infection might taste like in a homebrew.
It’s hard not to picture everyone in lab coats, wringing their hands together with satisfied grins stretching across their faces. As one member grated beets to color his ale, naturally, the E in VIBE was palpable. Enthusiasm for the craft itself is what defines VIBE; the beers are merely a stepping stone to the next brew day.