Craft Beer Pays My Bills: The Homebrew Guru

Modern Homebrew Emporium's brewer-in-chief helps novices get in on the beer-making act.

Modern Homebrew Emporium's brewer-in-chief Randy Baril

Photo by Mark Fleming

Randy Baril, Modern Homebrew Emporium.

For city-dwelling hobby brewers, there’s only one place you need to go to get started on a homemade lager or ale: Modern Homebrew Emporium in Cambridge. The shop, stacked high with malt, hops, bottles, and more, is managed by Randy Baril, a former Harpoon employee who’s been a fan of the “fermentation sciences” since he was 16 (his first experiment involved a strawberry-rhubarb mead).

When he’s not advising novice beer makers on the differences between Munich and Kölsch ale yeasts (the shop carries more than 100 kinds), Baril is minding his own small-batch projects at home. He built a 10-gallon all-grain brewing system, but he likes the craft of stovetop, amateur-style brewing as well. “It allows me to play with new flavors and recipes. Plus, there’s only so much beer you can drink,” he says of his five-gallon attempts. His current at-home favorite is an Ordinary Amber, based on a low-alcohol British style that has a bold, malty character.

While he tries not to drink too much on the job, he does spend plenty of time tasting his customers’ creations and offering feedback. Baril is also an organizer of the New England Real Ale Exhibition, held each spring.

The shopkeeper has proudly watched many a patron go from hobbyist to full-scale brewer. “A lot of guys who have recently created startups have come through the shop,” he says. “It’s really a privilege to meet people with so much enthusiasm.”