By Cristin Nelson / Photos by Kristin TiegIt’s a Sunday afternoon in November, and it’s Sara Marx’s birthday. She and her fiancé Rinaldo Dorman are manning one of the 10 copper-plated kettles at Hopster’s Brew and Boards in Newton, a community brewery that opened its doors in September of 2013. In their kettle, boiling away, are the makings for an Almond Breakfast Stout, which they plan to christen “Fat Kid Heaven.” Rinaldo tried his hand at home brewing once before (“It didn’t turn out right,” he admits), but this is Sara’s first time at a kettle. At Hopster’s, they’re working under the supervision of a brewer, who helps them read the recipe and assemble the roasted barley, almond extract, and other ingredients in the recipe; then, in an improvisatory choice, Sara and Rinaldo go off-book to add some oats. Everything will end up together in the kettle (in beer-speak, it’s sometimes called the copper) to brew. “The whole vision of Hopster’s is really to learn awareness of where we are, and where stuff comes from,” says owner Lee Cooper, a native of Liverpool, England, who conceptualized the brewery after he was laid off from his job in financial services in 2012. “Very few people know what goes into beer.” His hope is that people will enjoy their brewing experience, but also take away knowledge about beer and the local brewing culture. The original vision, Cooper says, was for an English-style pub, emulating the style of his homeland. “But when I first came to the United States, I was so surprised with the beer culture and craft happening here in New England,” says Cooper. “Beer is part of the climate here. The most memorable, extreme beers were coming out. I was like, oh my gosh, the U.S. is at the forefront of creating really sophisticated, special beer. I want to be a part of that.” Apparently, so did plenty of others. Last summer, Cooper launched a Kickstarter campaign, asking for startup contributions in exchange for trinkets like Hopster’s bottle openers and Belgian tulip glasses; for large amounts, donors could reserve a kettle free of charge, or even throw a party. “Community is important to us, the community around the pub,” says Cooper. “It was a litmus test of interest.” And the interest was there: donations totaled over $40,000, surpassing their $35,000 goal. When it opened, Hopster’s joined Massachusetts’s brew-on-site locations Barleycorn’s (in Natick) and Deja Brew (in Shrewsbury), and across the New Hampshire line in Nashua, IncrediBREW. Places like these allow customers—everyone from expert brewers to first-timers—to rent a kettle and get the do-it-yourself experience. Enthusiasm for community brewing can stem from a desire to demystify the entire process, or, as Cooper calls it, “lifting the veil” of craft beer culture. What really happens inside a brewery? Sure, there are books to read and tours to take, but a hands-on experience can be revealing. hopsters.net --- Cristin Nelson is a freelance food writer whose recipes and writings have appeared in publications including The Boston Globe, Vegetarian Times, and Edible Boston. Cristin also writes The Four Seasonings, a blog about seasonal eating. She lives in Boston with her husband and her enthusiastic appetite.