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Home-brewed with local Sayers

Young, old, guys, girls; everyone likes a good beer.

But great, unique beer is definitely harder to come by and Bryan Sayers is mastering the art of brewing and the reputation of Sayers’ home brew, “Backwards Jack” is growing fast.

At twenty-three, Sayers has fought his way through three universities - starting at Southern New Hampshire University, continuing on to UMass Lowell.

Finally, Sayers ended up at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.  There, he studies restaurant management, concentrating on beverage studies.

But his passion for beer started far earlier then his college education.  “I had my first taste when my dad gave me a sip as a kid,” he chuckles, “I had no idea whether or not to like it; I eventually figured it out clearly.”

Growing up in Chelmsford Ma, Sayers’ high school years brought on many different types of beer - good and bad, more cheap than expensive.

Once entering college, Sayers’ parents, John and Ronalee, gave him a little more lee way, letting the underage run-ins with cops slide into the past. Sayers attributes much of his passion for beer to his father and older brother Will. Trying different brews - lagers, ales, stouts etc - became a past time they enjoyed.

Sayers’ first try at brewing beer was at the clumsy age of nineteen, his father John helped him stumble through the confusing process. “It was some else’s recipe, how could it go wrong? All I had to do was follow the steps.” Sayers succeeded in his rookie attempt - decently satisfied with the outcome.

After four years of experience, some guidance from teachers and brewers that he sought out, and some funding from his parents, Sayers still waits anxiously and excitedly every time he bottles his final product of a batch.  The process leading up to that moment is not strenuous but it is time consuming.

The purpose of brewing is to convert the starch source into a sugary liquid called wort and to convert the wort into the alcoholic beverage known as beer in a fermentation process effected by yeast.

The first step is to prepare the wort by mixing malted barley with boiling water, a process called mashing.  Crushed malts are mixed with “liquor” or water, over a span of two hours, eventually converting the starch into sugar, draining the wort from the grains.        “Sparging,” or washing the grains of all the liquid, allows Sayers to drain absolutely as much “wort” as possible. He then boils the wort in a large pot; bigger breweries do this in a “copper,” a large scale pot that is left to boil for about an hour.        After cooling, the wort is ready for the yeast, the active ingredient in fermenting. The yeast now will take about a month to ferment into beer, according to Sayers’s recipe.  After four weeks, Sayers filters the beer once more, and bottles it into about fifty brown-glass bottles.

After watching him wipe his brow more than once over a hot boiling pot; work the grains so that all the sugary water is forced out; and lift a five gallon jug repeatedly, I wait to help him bottle the beer - then it chills to a frosty temperature and we enjoy the final product.

The alcohol content of Sayers’ beer since it is a home brew, is a little higher, almost eight percent; most are typically three to five percent.

After a few “samples,” I have shared with him all of my personal thoughts on his passion. “Do YOU like it?” I asked him. “Of course I do, It’s delicious,” he responds.

It is indeed; with a dark rich color, thick “head” (the foam at the top of a beer) and a spicy, sweet pumpkin under bite, I can‘t think of a drink I‘d rather have.

Backwards Jack is popular with many people, and Sayers’ reputation has grown greatly for his craft.  Sayers lives with five other friends in a college house in East Providence, and the monthly brew has become an event which they all look forward to.  Each batch Sayers’ tries different flavors, ingredients and styles of beer.

This month’s pumpkin ale was very popular with the boys as well as many of their friends and much of the JWU baseball team, which Sayers and four of his roommates play on.

After trying Backwards Jack, I will definitely be returning for the monthly ritual - always ready to try a new brew.

Sayers hopes to enroll in one of the best, and most prestigious brewing programs in the country, at the University of California at Davis.

Graduating from Johnson and Wales, he will already have a leg up on the applicant competition, but he will also have another advantage: more drive, passion, and skill within food and beverage as a whole.

Sayers hopes to eventually own his own brewery and restaurant, a very popular concept in New England right now.

There’s no doubt that Sayers wants to go into this business, as his eyes light up and he says, “Because I like the beer I make, and everyone else is always going to like beer.”

Confidence not cockiness is key; it is good beer.

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