From beer to fear; Scientific speaker summer series highlights literary elements series

Photo by Sue Suchyta
Dearborn residents Christina Soliz (left) and Stephanie Soliz taste and smell barley malt during a science of home brewing event June 25 at Henry Ford Centennial Library, the second of seven scheduled summer science presentations.

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN – While foam-topped mugs were missing from the adult lunchtime Science of Home Brews presentation at Henry Ford Centennial Library last Wednesday, the avid audience left knowing how to brew beer.

The event, the second of seven Literary Elements in the 2014 Dearborn library adult summer reading program, offers a sampler of fun scientific presentations, with all but the closing program offered from noon to 1 p.m. in a bring-your-own brown bag format. The closing presentation, the Science of Fear, is a 7 p.m. event.

The free presentations are in room 30 on the mezzanine level of Henry Ford Centennial Library, and the public may drop in without pre-registration.

Jason “Old Ale Jay” Smith and Denise Smith explained home brewing basics, including ingredients, equipment and the home-brewing process. The two own home brewing supply stores in Taylor and Ann Arbor. For more information, go to

From affordable equipment, to ingredients and techniques, Jason Smith took the lunchtime audience through the steps needed to brew their own beer, answering questions that arose during the talk.

He said the best beer is the one an individual likes.

“Get a beer that you like – not because somebody tells you to,” Smith said. “The best beer is what you enjoy; buy it because you enjoy it, not because there is hype behind it.”

Smith said start-up brewing equipment need not be expensive, and home brewers can ferment beer in a plastic bucket.

“You might make beer once and say, ‘This is for the birds,’ and never do it again,” he said. “Get involved at a minimal cost and make sure you are going to enjoy it and buy the equipment as you need it.”

He said he sells beginners a start up kit for $69.

“Once you make it once or twice, you are hooked,” he said. “‘I love this. There is no way I am going back.’ Great. Buy the best equipment that you need, but buy it as you understand it.”

Christina Soliz of Dearborn said her sister Stephanie urged her to attend the presentation with her. She cooks from scratch, and wants to try to make beer at home.

“I think maybe I will try to experiment with it,” she said. “The low cost is a good incentive. My family loves beer.”

Stephanie Soliz of Dearborn enjoyed the presentation.

“I have always wanted to learn more about beer and how it was made, and this was a great overview,” she said. “I like to try different kinds of beers. The ingredients seem so simple, but it is so … very scientific … the yeast and breaking down the sugar and hops and all of that. It is a very precise process (yet) it sounds like that allows for a lot of creativity.”

Paul Mann of Dearborn was very pleased by how much he learned about home brewing.

“It is very reasonable to do, and you can control the cost, and you can control what you put into the beer,” Mann said. “I enjoyed it.”

He said he makes his own homemade salsa, and is tempted to take a more detailed class elsewhere and then try to make his own beer.

Mann, who works evenings, said he would like to attend more of the lunchtime programs, which fit into his schedule.

Librarian Isabella Rowan said the Dearborn libraries combined a nationwide science-themed summer program tied to a yearlong reading theme with the library’s own theme of literary elements for adults.

“We thought we would just get on board with that and have all of our lunchtime programs scientifically related,” she said.

Rowan encourages program attendees to bring their lunch.

“This is one of the few times that people can bring their food to the library,” she said. “You are welcome to bring your brown bag lunch, and eat, and listen to a great program and learn something cool, and have a productive lunch period.”

She said they have a book display in the library each week of materials related to the speaker’s theme for patrons to check out.

If adults wish to enroll in the program online, log their reading hours and enter their program attendance, they are eligible to win prizes, which include book store gift cards. For more information, go to

Neither enrollment nor pre-registration is required to attend the free programs.

The “Science of Cleaning Green” is the next program. KristiAnn Keith of A2 Green Clean will offer tips of the trade July 9 to keep homes clean and germ free with eco-friendly and sustainable products.

The “Science of Alternative Energy” July 16 will explore renewable energy and current green initiatives that are easy on the environment, with speaker Jerry Hasspacher of the Sierra Club’s Southeastern Michigan group.

Jane Geisler of the Dearborn Garden Club presents the “Science of Growing a Rain Garden” July 23 as she takes attendees through the steps needed to plan and develop a rain garden.

Rachael Merritt of Wayne State University’s planetarium hosts “Science of the Milky Way” July 30 to share summer sky knowledge and explain the earth’s place in space.

The “Science of Fear,” with Michigan author Josh Malerman, closes the series at 7 p.m. Aug. 7 at the library. The Ferndale resident’s debut novel, “Bird Box” is a thriller in the terror genre of Stephen King. Attendees may purchase Malerman’s novel, recommended for mature audiences, at the event.

“Think of the library as a place for educational fun things,” Rowan said. “It is not just coming to (a place to) use the public computers, it’s not just coming to check out a DVD, it’s not just coming to check out a book. We have great educational programs that are adult-friendly, not just for kids. So drop your kid off in the children’s department and come over here and participate in something cool for grownups.”