From Basement to Brewery 2

Lee’s Summit Man Tastes Success

It’s Sunday afternoon and the kitchen of Lynn and Tony DiPlacito’s Lakewood home looks like the inside of a brewery. That’s because today it is. Tony is brewing his latest beer from an original recipe. “I’m using pale malt, wheat malt and rye malt to create what I call my lawnmower beer,” says Tony.

On the stovetop is a seven-gallon stew pot, full of water. He heats it to 164 degrees, and then with the help of son-in-law Ryan Hamann, pours it into a 10-gallon beverage container. “This is my mash tun,” explains Tony. He made it himself by adding a screen bottom for filtering the wort from the grain. Once the pot is full of hot water, the two men add the pre-measured grains and stir. “I’ve learned that adding a handful or so of rice hulls helps keep the wheat grains separated and make the process run smoother.” After mixing, they cover the container and let it set for 60 minutes, while nutrients are sucked out of the grains.

After an hour, they siphon the liquid into the boil kettle and test for sugar content in the wort. “Lee’s Summit has excellent brewing water! The pH is a perfect,” says Tony. “All I have to do is add a tablet to remove chlorine.”

Tony has long enjoyed craft beer, especially Kansas City’s locals like Boulevard and Cinder Block. Then about five years ago, Lynn bought Tony a beer-making kit as a Christmas gift. “I thought it made terrible beer,” says Tony. Although friends and neighbors said they liked that first batch, the couple knew they needed to step it up. The following summer Lynn found some beer-making items at garage sales, including a pale ale. “I like gadgets!” says Tony, and those simple finds were all it took to get him to try again.

With the new equipment and multigrains on hand, Tony made his first real batch. “It turned out incredible!” Soon after he joined a few beer clubs and began entering in competitions. He won third place in Best of Show with the ZZHops Club and earned 42 out of 50 points at a California show. He also began frequenting local brew supply stores such as Lee’s Summit’s Grains and Taps and Apex Brew Wares.

Following a recent competition, Cinder Block Brewery in North Kansas City approached him even though his entry did not place. “They said they really enjoyed its drinkability. Cinder Block wanted to make my beer and serve it on tap.” Their recipe had to be scaled up from five gallons to 15 barrels to run on Cinder Block’s system. The beer was released at a party just prior to Labor Day. “This was quite an honor,” says Tony. Two weeks later, he was one of 40 brewers who participated in Brewtopia Kansas City, a homebrew and craft beer festival.

What’s next? The energetic couple is in the process of renovating their basement to include a bar, a walk-in wine cooler and a room for beer making. Already on hand is a customized refrigerator Tony found free on Craig’s List. It holds his kegs, where he runs CO2 into the living ale for carbonation. He removed some shelves from a discarded upright freezer, installed a temperature control device and now uses the unit to keep his beer at a constant 66 degrees during the fermentation process. He plans to install a 220 volt outlet which would allow him to move the cooking process downstairs.

“Right now this is the big brew kitchen!” says Lynn, gesturing to the home’s kitchen. “I like a brew day because Tony has to sanitize everything!” On this particular Sunday, it appeared that his project may edge out any dinner plans. “Not a problem. He is smoking a pork shoulder on the back patio!”