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ROUND OF APPLAUSE FOR BREWERS VALLEY BEER MAKERS' CLUB MAKES TOAST TO 30-YEAR HISTORY.

Byline: Brent Hopkins Staff Writer

WOODLAND HILLS - Thirty years ago, a group of yeast-fiends and hops-heads formed, meeting on the sly to talk of cooking up an illegal beverage.

Thus formed the Maltose Falcons Home Brewing Society, a devoted band of beer artisans who linked up to further the then-illicit art of ale making.

Due to an oddity of the tax code that remained on the books since Prohibition, their hobby was technically outlawed when they began pursuing the craft. As the first formally organized club in the nation, the home brewers made beer they loved, but it was a far cry from today's artisan brews.

``In '72 when I started, you made beer in an open crock, threw in tons of sugar, malt, whatever,'' recalled John Daume, owner of The Home Beer, Wine, Cheesemaking Shop in Woodland Hills that sponsored the club. ``It was a sheer miracle if you got anything that tasted any good. It was the dark ages.''

Things were quite different Saturday night as the members hoisted glasses of suds. Gathered at the Warner Center Marriott, the 180-member group dined, saluted its history, rocked out to the sound of the Falcon Brews Band and toasted its success.

The lager lovers brought out 30 handcrafted beers, poured from hand-cast falcon-head taps and drained from custom-built bars. Belgian sours flowed alongside Bohemians; champagne-style bruts disappeared from glasses, replaced by the hop-heavy Double Down Double India Pale Ale.

The home brew scene attracts an interesting, passionate bunch. The brewers know their history, dating from the ancient origins of Sumerian beer prayers to Scandinavian epics. They know their politics, offering special reverence to the late former Sen. Alan Cranston and former President Carter for the repeal of anti-home brew laws in 1979, a cause championed by early Falcons. And they know their science.

``There's chemistry, physics, mechanics - it's a good educational experience,'' said Steven Raub, a Thousand Oaks field service engineer in the film industry who's been brewing for nine years. ``My daughter was doing a paper on it for school, so we got some equipment and got started. We've enjoyed the heck out of it.''

It's usually not just the brewers enjoying the heck out of it, either.

Drew Beechum, a Valley Village computer programmer who serves as the club's president, noted that his traditional English milds won him a lot more social invitations than, say, building clocks for a hobby.

``People become big fans of yours when they're having a party,'' he said, grinning. ``It's always, 'Can you bring over a couple of kegs?' Aww, sure!''

Brent Hopkins, (818) 713-3738

brent.hopkins(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 10, 2004
Words:437
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