Power to the beer geeks

Jacob Dickman


Like so many beer aficionados, local home brewer Jacob Dickman was introduced to the world of craft beer by Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale, and now fully embraces the sheer variety of suds available amid America’s ongoing craft beer revolution. The 25-year-old is taking that attitude a step further, helping Ryan Sanders, a fellow home brewer and founder of BetterBeerKits.com, launch his next project: Kit Lab. If the partners reach their crowdfunding goal, Kit Lab’s website will serve as a platform for anyone to post beer recipes and sell their own brewing kits. Dickman says the site has the potential to empower home brewers more than ever before. Go to tinyurl.com/KitLab to learn more.

What interests you about home brewing?

Just realizing that, if I can buy something in the store, I can make it myself. I think that’s a universal thing for home brewers—“If I can drink it, I can probably make it, or at least get close.”

What was your first craft beer love?

Growing up, my dad would always have Coors Light and [Sierra Nevada] Pale Ale in the fridge. He told me the Coors was for a Saturday after yard work; the Pale was for enjoying something that’s truly crafted, just sipping and savoring. That was very impactful. Then, I was introduced to [Russian River Brewing Co.’s] Pliny the Elder. It was revelatory; it’s such an amazing beer. It helped me break out of the box a lot of locals fall into—they won’t pick up anything that doesn’t have “Sierra Nevada” on the label.

How often do you brew?

My friends and I brew at least once a week, depending on what our bank accounts look like, really. We hang out in my shed, which I outfitted into a functional home brewery, and we play brewer. We write our own recipes, we label and bottle. We can’t sell, obviously, because of the laws.

Is that where Kit Lab comes in?

Kit Lab operates on a similar model to Northern Brewer, probably the largest kit-distribution agency that brewers respect. They take beer kits they’ve got recipes for, they sit in a warehouse, and you go online and say, “I’m going to buy that one,” and they ship it to you. What we’re doing differently is that we don’t write all the recipes; maybe you did, or some other guy did. You buy other people’s hard-earned recipes.

So, it’s a way to share ideas?

Certainly. “Ideas” might even sell it a bit short. When you drink beer, you have a visceral, emotional response. Not only does it release endorphins, it’s also pleasing to your taste buds and you get the aroma. It’s a whole sensory experience. And it’s cool that you can’t go buy any of those beers at the store—you can only get that flavor if you put in the work to brew it. It’s like a secret menu at a restaurant.

How will this help small-time brewers?

I wouldn’t be surprised if some brewers get their feet off the ground with Kit Lab, just get their name out there. We already have more than 100 authors who’ve signed up. This really hasn’t been done, empowering the home brewer, and the U.S. actually has a history of keeping the little guys down.