Judy Parsons fell in love with home brewing after she bought her husband a kit for his first Father’s Day in 1992.
She’s been brewing ever since.
Keystone Homebrew Supply was founded the same year by Jason Harris, and Parsons began working there six years later. She has managed the Bethlehem location for 14 years.
Keystone Homebrew celebrated 25 years of business in November 2016. It is one of the largest home brew and wine-making supply stores in the area.
Parsons said home brewing is a “fun hobby” and a “teaching business.”
Bethlehem’s storefront is one of two Keystone Homebrew locations, with another in Montgomeryville. They opened their first store in the Main Street Commons in North Bethlehem in 1992 and moved to their current location on East Third Street in 2013.
Keystone Homebrew is active in the Bethlehem community. Every June they partner with the local public radio station, WDIY, for its Homebrew Festival fundraiser. They also sponsor a local beer club, the Lehigh Valley Homebrewers, which meets monthly, and host home brew competitions, including their Annual Keystone Cup.
Parsons said Lehigh faculty, graduate students and occasional undergraduates frequent the store.
Keith Erekson, ’03, ’05G, a senior analyst for LTS, is a regular customer of Keystone Homebrew and has been brewing his own beer for about 10 years. He was introduced to the craft when his sister gave him a home brew kit.
Erekson buys most of his home brewing supplies from Keystone Homebrew, including all of his grain and hops. He said there is a large community of home brewers in the Lehigh Valley.
Steve Anthony, ’10, who is also an LTS senior analyst, began home brewing about a year ago. He said Erekson convinced him to start, but he couldn’t do so until he moved into a temperature-controlled apartment.
“My apartment is mostly beer,” Anthony said.
He has four fridges: one for food, two for beer and one for brewing when he needs the temperature to be under 50 degrees.
Erekson and Anthony are members of the Lehigh Valley Homebrewers club and attend its monthly meetings.
Unlike Erekson, who uses all grain to brew, Anthony uses ingredient and extract kits he buys from Keystone Homebrew. Anthony can brew 40 gallons of beer at a time and does so at least once a month, sometimes as much as once a week.
Erekson said home brewing is a hobby with a useful output. He recently brewed a raspberry porter, although he prefers dark beer, but said he thinks he used a little too much raspberry.
Erekson is able to brew five gallons at a time and likes to bring his brews to social gatherings like barbecues.
Erekson and Anthony are teamed up in a bracket competition through their club and are competing against Parsons and other Keystone Homebrew staff.
“(Brewing is) really not that difficult,” Parsons said. “Sanitation is very important.”
She encourages those interested in home brewing to visit and talk to her for advice.
In addition to selling home brew products, Keystone Homebrew offers a variety of classes for beginners as well as more experienced home brewers. The intro class is $30, and there is a $15 charge for an additional person. The class is two and a half hours long and covers the basics of equipment, ingredients and sanitation.
The staff like to keep classes small, usually between eight and 12 people, so they’re able to offer a more personalized experience. Instructors go through the actual process of brewing from start to finish.
The next level class costs $40 and teaches more in-depth tips and tricks. Keystone Homebrew also offers an all-grain class for more advanced home brewers, which lasts five hours and costs $75.
Although Keystone Homebrew’s specialty is beer, they offer an occasional wine-making seminar. Every fall and spring, they sell fresh grapes and grape juice from around the world for making wine. Selections include grapes from California, Italy and Washington.
Anthony, who goes to Keystone Homebrew two to three times a week for supplies, said the staff are always super helpful.
“They support the community,” Erekson said. “You go in and everybody knows you.”