The Session #71 – Brewers and Drinkers

The Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community where, on the first Friday of each month, all participating bloggers write about a predetermined topic. Each month a different blog is chosen to host The Session, choose the topic, and post a roundup of all the responses received. For more info on The Session, check out the Brookston Beer Bulletin.session-logo-sm

This session is hosted by John at Home Brew Manual (from whose site I just “borrowed” his excellent home brewing record sheet – I had just the day before been thinking “I wish I had something like that”) and he decided to set the blogging topic of “Brewers and Drinkers” . Essentially it’s about, if you brew beer, whether that has had any effect on how you appreciate beer in general. Or, if you don’t, do you think you enjoy a beer more because you don’t know how it’s made.

This time last year my wife bought me a homebrew kit for my birthday. It wasn’t entirely out of the blue – I’d been developing a taste for good beer over the previous year or so and had been talking about getting into homebrewing for at least that long.

But I never did anything about it, citing the (presumed) high cost of getting started – buying fermenters, bottles and all the other paraphernalia required. And so my wife – bless her wonderful heart – decided to give me a little push. She bought me the kit and a two-hour course on brewing at my local homebrew shop – and I was off.

That was a year and 13 brews ago. I in fact just bottled lucky number 13 earlier this week – a Hoegaarden clone that, in a self-deprecating comment on my brewing skills, I called Sarcasm. Why? Because sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. (geddit? I brewed a WIT beer? Oh never mind).

Since I started homebrewing my understanding of beer has improved considerably. Which has come in handy because I also write a weekly beer column for my local newspaper, so being aware of the steps in the brewing process has aided my ability to review beers. For instance, it wasn’t until I started brewing that I knew that hops could provide bitterness, flavour or aroma depending on where in the process they’re chucked in. I also learned what dry-hopping was – a phrase I’d read about on a few beer labels but previously had no idea what it meant.

In my head, this is what my home brewery looks like. In reality, it's a plastic fermenter under my stairs. I like my fantasy brewery better.

In my head, this is what my home brewery looks like. In reality, it’s a plastic fermenter under my stairs. I like my fantasy brewery better.

You could even say that, BH (Before Homebrewing) I didn’t really understand what went into beer. Oh, I knew it was made up of ‘‘water, hops, malt and yeast’’ because I’d seen a few brewers wearing shirts with that emblazoned on them. But, aside from water, I didn’t really have much of a concept of the other three. Now, I at least know how a beer is put together.

It’s also helped me while visiting breweries. Previously, I’d visit a brewery and the brewer would be explaining how everything worked. I’d just nod and pretend I knew what they was talking about, lest they think me some sort of beer charlatan. Now, because I brew at home, I’ve got an understanding of the process – I know which order each ingredients are added and where it all ends up.

Homebrewing has also led to me becoming, shall we say, obsessed by beer. Before I was certainly interested in beer but, now I’m making my own I’m fascinated by the process. I read books and magazines about beer and brewing to see if I can glean any new information. I devote a shocking amount of my thinking to what beer I might brew next. I obsess about how to make it, asking for help via Twitter and this blog (and also pestering a few professional brewers I know for guidance). I also have to watch myself when someone asks me about homebrew in a social situation because it’s all too easy for me to crap on about it for an eternity. And yes, the fact that I write a blog about beer is obviously another sign of that obsession.

Has it changed the way I approach beer in general? Not really. I can still appreciate a tasty beer without spending ages trying to work out exactly what the brewer did to it (unless, of course, I want to copy it, then I just google recipes for it because I’m too dumb to work out ingredients just from tasting a beer). Nor has it made me hypercritical of beers either – I don’t get all bent out of shape if the malt overbalances the hops, or if they’ve gone stupid with the dry-hopping. I think that’s because I don’t see myself as any sort of expert on beer or brewing – I still describe myself as an enthusiastic amateur. And, if I don’t like a particular beer, I don’t think that means it’s a bad beer per se, it just means I don’t like it.

In closing, I can honestly say that homebrew kit was the best birthday present I’ve ever gotten. And it’s worked out okay for my wife too – every now and then I’ll brew a beer she likes. So everyone wins.

13 replies »

  1. Man, I wish my wife was so supportive! It’s more of a life-and-let-live philosophy when it comes to my homebrewing. As long as nothing explodes, I’m in her good graces.

    • My wife is supportive – up to a point. If I’m doing an extract brew – which takes at least 90 minutes from go to whoa – I make sure I wait til she’s out of the house. I’m sure she’d be less supportive if I did it while she was at home.

  2. Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. Now that is a great name. I wish I would have come up with it. Oh well.

    You story is very similar to mine. My sister got me a home-brew kit for Christmas in 2009, and I didn’t really start to understand or appreciate good beer until I got into brewing. Actually, this gift did come completely out of the blue for me. I had thought about becoming a home-brewer, but always thought it probably was not worth the effort. Boy was I wrong. And boy am I glad my sister got me that gift.

    • Thanks, Sarcasm is the high point of my homebrew names so far. I like to have a bit of fun with the naming process and come up with something off-centre – and lacking in hop-related puns.

  3. My story’s very similar to yours. I too enjoyed good beer Before Homebrewing, but didn’t know a great deal about it.

    Now I’m so obsessed with it I’ve started designing home brewing record sheets.


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