By DAVID SWEARINGEN
STEPHENVILLE (September 13, 2016) – On Saturday, Sept. 10, the Thirsty Armadillo Gathering held their monthly meeting at the home of Roger and Cathy Wittie in Stephenville.
The Thirsty Armadillo Gathering is a group of Stephenville-area folks who enjoy home-brewing their own beer. Some of the members also make their own wine. The group is made up of members ranging in age from 21 through about 70. Several of the brewers are members of the Tarleton State University faculty, while others work (or have worked) in other occupations and locations such as Comanche Peak Nuclear Plant, FMC Technologies and Saint-Gobain to name a few.
At their December gathering, the members signed-up to host a monthly gathering at their home on a particular month. The group meets 11 months out of the year, taking July off each year. The meetings are informal. The members basically socialize, eat and, of course, discuss some of their brewing experiences. A typical meeting (or gathering) will have 20-30 people present ,although the email list boasts 60 or more members.
This month’s gathering host, Roger Wittie, said the fact Stephenville used to be dry, probably lead to the beginning of the Thirsty Armadillo Gathering. The brewers are not allowed to sell their product, so it is strictly for personal use.
“Most brewers will drink their own brew no matter how bad it turns out,” said home-brewer, Jeff Dahl.
A bad brew is not the goal, but sometimes things may happen or go wrong with the process. Roger Wittie spoke about an occasion where everything did not go totally right with a pressure vessel and beer sprayed all over the ceiling. Luckily, that does not happen that often.
More often than not, these experienced brewers end up with a very tasty beverage they can be proud of and enjoy. Wittie also said virtually every brew and every brewing experience will yield a different tasting beverage. They may all be good, but seldom will any two different brews taste exactly alike. Wittie said the Thirsty Armadillos have even held a challenge to see if they could all use the same exact ingredients and come out with the same taste. He said no two tasted exactly alike, there are just so many variables. Wittie actually teaches a course at Tarleton State University called “Fermentation and Brewing” that earns the student college credit hours.
Two of the Thirsty Armadillos, Tim Jones and Ron Tiner, regularly attend meetings in Fort Worth with another brewing bunch called the Cap and Hare. This group also meets once a month and Jones and Tiner go over for their own enjoyment, as well as staying in touch with the home-brewing community and techniques being used.
Both gentlemen also serve as judges at various home-brewing competitions or events. Tiner is a certified judge and Jones is not actually a certified judge but they both enjoy judging at various competitions. Tiner also serves as the current president of the Thirsty Armadillo Gathering.
The Thirsty Armadillo Gathering is also an active participant in the various competitions and tastings at the annual Rhymes and Vines Music Festival. This year will be the 11th Annual Rhymes and Vines Music Festival held at Melody Mountain Ranch in Stephenville from Sept. 21 through Sept. 24.
The home-brewing process creates a beer that varies in alcohol content, but the common range is approximately 4.5 to 6 percent. The beer can be produced with more or less of an alcohol content due to various causes or variations. The brewing process most of the Armadillo members use takes about 30 days from actual start to finish.
The beer is allowed to ferment for about a week, then it goes through a secondary clearing stage for an additional 7 days, and then it is bottled and allowed to set for approximately two weeks to allow for the carbonation process. Home-brewing can be very interesting and a lot of fun, but the brewer has to pay close attention to detail for the process to be successful.
The group welcomes new members. Those interested in visiting with the Thirsty Armadillo Gathering to learn more should contact Cathy Witte at email@example.com or Harold Rathburn at firstname.lastname@example.org.