The same old thing is special


Some of my latest batch of Summer Girl. Wollongong beer geeks might recognise the repurposed Five Islands Brewing Company bottle caps.

When it comes to making beer, brewers seem to get all the praise when they come out with a new beer. But really, when you think about it, that’s the easy part. What they should be getting praise for is making the same beer. Over and over again. Batch after batch.

I’ve come to this conclusion based on my now two years of experience as a homebrewer, and as someone who has come up with at least one frigging awesome beer. That would be a creation called Summer Girl. I made it for the first time in summer 2012 with a Pacific Ale clone in mind.

While it didn’t end up tasting like that beer – I think more artistry and brewing dexterity than I have goes into that beer – but I got something pretty damned delicious. And it wasn’t just me who thought so – everyone (and I do mean everyone) who tried that beer loved it. The batch of that beer disappeared faster than any other brew I’d made.

So it was obvious that I’d make it again this summer. What I got was a really nice beer, but it wasn’t the same as the 2012 version. This time around there was a very distinct flavour of orange – so much so that it made me wonder if my local homebrew shop had screwed up when they labelled the hop packs and sold me 100g of Amarillo or maybe Citra, rather than the Galaxy I was using. Galaxy tastes like a lot of fruits but can’t say a strong orange flavour is one of them.

If I can come up with a good beer at home – and without anything like temperature controls – then that part has to be easy. The tricky part would be to make Summer Girl again. And again. And again. And have it taste the same every single time.

To me, here lies the real talent of a brewer – whether they’re making craft beer or mainstream beer. They need to make their beer taste the same from one batch to the next. They can’t have a beer whose flavour diverges as much as my Summer Girls did – the beer-buying public expects their beer to taste the same as it did last week, last month, last year.

Given the massive amount of variables in beer including temperature, availability of ingredients and lazy yeast, it’s an undeniable skill for a brewer to make batches of beer that are consistent over a long period of time.

So the next time you drink a beer that you’ve had heaps of times before, just stop for a second and marvel at the skill of the brewer who did that.

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