My wife and I suffer from a shared problem- we can’t stop making things.
In the 17 years that we have known each other we have logged many late night hours while trying to “just finish one more thing.” Our poor vehicles have been subject to countless trips to home improvement, craft, and sewing stores while accumulating what has to be at this point several tons of supplies to our home. The funny part is that nearly half of those supplies have likely been used for tasks far beyond their intended purposes. The end result has been the creation highly customized clothing, furniture, art, computer hardware, and beyond and an intense feeling of pride for having “made that with our own hands”.
It was with this mindset on Christmas Day of 2009 that I peeled back the wrapping paper from a curiously large box whose identity remained a mystery even after being subjected to several surreptitious shakes. Devoid of its secretive wrappings the box of a Coopers Microbrewery Kit laid bare for all to behold. It was at this moment that my journey into the world of homebrewing began.
I credit the Abita Brewing Company with introducing me to the world of beers beyond the standard American light lagers offered by Anheuser–Busch, MillerCoors, and related companies. Through experimentation with various craft beers I discovered a taste for the increased bitterness of India Pale Ales, heavier bodied Trappist Ales, and technically impressive Belgian Strong Ales. What followed was a level of research bordering on the obsessive into the history and sociological impact of beer on society. While there has never been an admission of such, I’m almost sure that the microbrewery kit was an excuse to move my focus (and conversation topics) to a new subject.
Now let me be honest: I am not a good cook by any stretch of the imagination. Beyond some well-worn standard recipes that allow for very large margins of error my efforts in the kitchen have run the gamut from acceptable to disastrous (with a few likely bordering on explosive). Having said that I cannot overstate this fact enough:
Homebrewing is EASY!
How easy? In its most rudimentary form homebrewing requires just four ingredients: malt, water, hops, and yeast. Combine these ingredients with some basic equipment that you may already own and some easy to follow directions and in no time you can be enjoying your first batch of tasty beer that you brewed yourself.
While the first batch of beer that I made more closely resembled the color and texture of tepid swamp water this led to the discovery of the friendly, welcoming, and scary knowledgeable online homebrewing community. Before long I discovered corrections to my misconceptions, the flaws in my technique, and solutions to problems encountered. By the time I finished my next brew I had created a reasonable facsimile of Abita’s Turbodog and outlined a method for creating additives for additional recipes.
One of the things that is great about homebrewing is that is can be so easy. However, like any hobby, depending on your own personal interests you can take any step in the process and attack it with a level of obsession that you find most rewarding.
Want to make beer as cheaply as possible? Try mashing the raw malted grains yourself while trying to maximize the efficiency of the process. Are you interested in the mechanics of the brewing process? There’s nothing preventing you from implementing a fully automated microbrewery made up of electric heating elements, pumps, and chilling plates. Maybe you’re gifted with culinary talents. With the the plethora of malts, hops, yeasts, and additional additives you can create your own original recipes or clone an existing beer. Or, if you’re a big enough nerd (like myself) you might be interested in the biological and chemical processes of brewing. By logging data and paying attention to the technical aspects of the process you can aim to create the best environment possible to maximize the performance of the yeast.
Much like the arts of basic woodworking, ameteur pyrotechnics, and failed gardening I look forward to the day when I can share in the act of homebrewing with my children. While the endless list of crafts and hobbies are rewarding in and of themselves they pale in comparison the joy of a shared experience with curious minds. Hopefully with any knowledge that can be passed along from the skills we have learned due to our obsessions will lead to being surpassed by our future generation.
All told, homebrewing is a great hobby that has something to offer for everyone. The opportunities for creativity and engineering are numerous and leave lots of room to make the hobby your own. Let there be no doubt homebrewing is easy, fun, economical, and most importantly: delicious!