America’s Oldest Homebrewing Club Starts Brewing Up Beers for its 40th Anniversary

The crew firing up the brewing system.

At its monthly club brewing session, Los Angeles’ Maltose Falcons Homebrewing Society, the oldest home beer brewing club in the United States, brewed the first of a year-long series of commemorative beers to celebrate the club’s 40th anniversary in 2014. The club owns a 40-gallon Blichmann Engineering brewing system, and holds a monthly brewing session at the Home Wine Beer and Cheese Making Store, the shop that sponsors the club and hosts its monthly meetings.

The mash was so huge, it was 4 inches higher than the sparge pipes, so we improvised, as homebrewers usually do.

The Falcons got an early start – the members plan to pour their commemorative 40th anniversary beers at the clubs events throughout the year, which include homebrewing competitions, campouts, beer festivals, meetings and the grand finale, the club’s 40th Anniversary Banquet in Oct. 2014. The club brewing sessions will include a wide range of beers brewed by Falcons members that have won major awards, have become club legends, exemplify the styles the members most love to brew (hint – high gravity), demonstrate a wide variety of beer styles, brewing techniques and demonstrate technical mastery.

The recipe called for 120 lbs. of grain and 10 lbs. of dried malt extract.

The gang of seven brewed “Top Forty Ale,” an English Old Ale on Sunday, Nov. 23. Not to be confused with Olde English malt liquor in the famed 40 oz. bottles, this traditional, high-gravity, high-alcohol English ale is malty, nutty, full-bodied, rich and dark, with complex fruity esters. It is well-suited to long aging when it develops port-like oxidative aromas, and many recommend aging it from 6 months to two years. This beer style is as old as the hills, with records of it appearing in the Domesday Book of 1086 AD.

A power auger helps get the grains mashed in evenly.

Historically, Old Ales, or “Stock Ales” were blended in pubs with lighter beer to the customer’s taste, until it came to be served on its own. Through the early 19th century, Old Ales were much higher in alcohol than present day examples – above 8.7% ABV. In typical fashion, the Falcons went completely overboard, and brewed an Old Ale that tipped the scales at a whopping 1.115 Original Gravity, so the maximum possible attenuation would be 15% ABV. Give or take.

Noted beer brain Michael Jackson said of Old Ales, “It should be a warming beer of the type that is best drunk in half pints by a warm fire on a cold winter’s night.”

The Cellarmasters Home Winemaking Club brought Gold and silver medal-winning home made wines left over from the previous night’s national competition.

A great time was had by all at the Club Shop Brew Session. The sky was blue, and the weather was crisp. The crew learned to use the club’s 40-gallon system, and participated in ever step of the brewing process, from milling the grains, to mashing, sparging, hopping and, of course, cleaning up. Many top-notch beers, both home-brewed and commercial, were sampled, and many club members came to visit, and many customers came out back to see what was afoot, drawn out by the overpowering sweet malty aromas emanating from the massive wort boiling in back.

In the afternoon, the crew got a most pleasant surprise when Jon Umhey from the Cellarmasters Home Winemaking Club, which is also based at the Home Wine Beer and Cheesemaking Shop, stopped by. After the brew crew helped him unload his van, he brought out a box of the leftover gold and silver medal-winning wines from the previous night’s competition. The Falcons happily sampled them, many of which were outstanding, and a great palette cleanser from all the beer that the brew crew had been drinking during the brew day.

26 oz. of hops were used.

At the end of a long day, each crew member took home a 5-gallon share of wort, and a Falcon’s Share was kept for the 40th Anniversary Banquet. which already portends to be a delicious affair.

Check out the full online photo album here –

Oxygenating the wort is especially important for such big beers.




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