Since I started brewing beer in my home a few months ago, I’ve been amazed at just how much I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process of learning how to make beer. Yes, it’s fun to drink delicious, homemade beer – but the chemistry, the art, the technique, the patience, the uncertainty, the sense of tradition – all of these aspects of brewing have been meaningful to me. I’m not sure how to accurately explain it, so I will simply say that I have fallen head over heels in love with brewing. You know the feelings you have when you meet someone new – wanting to know everything about them, spend as much time as you can with them, tell everyone you know how “this is the one”? Well, yeah – it’s that bad. And before you even go there – the answer is yes, I’ve even awoken in the morning with an open homebrewing book beside me.
To me, at this early point in my brewing life, homebrewing feels like a combination of cooking, gardening, and parenting. The cooking part is the experimental part – art and science combine to make something that tastes wonderful that can be share with family and friends. The gardening part is the patience and understanding of something that is alive – that relies on mother nature to do her work to help a living thing reach it’s full potential. The parenting part is similar to the gardening part – but with the love, concern and fear amplified. It’s the difference between checking on your garden every afternoon versus sitting by the bedside of a child, making sure that they are safe, warm, and comfortable.
Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to meet up with a friend of mine who happens to be one of the premier craft brewers in Colorado (and arguably the entire country). He’s been watching our homebrewing charade from afar, imparting choice pieces of wisdom and advice now and again – and we’ve appreciated every single bit of it. Yesterday, we started talking about the process of making the mash and how, not to mince words, I’d been doing it mostly wrong. And then he went on to explain the chemical make-ups of starches, the ideal temperature to extract the fermentable sugars from grains, and the danger in ending up with too much starch in your beer – something that bacteria can feed on, but yeast cannot. It was a fascinating, five-minute discussion that left me wanting to brew immediately. (Let me apologize in advance to my family who will now have to hear me blather about enzymes and monosaccharides).
You see, up to this point, I’ve been relying pretty much solely on one book and a couple of websites to learn to brew. They’ve served their purpose and have allowed me to build a strong-enough foundation so that advice like the advice I got yesterday will stick, be meaningful, and I can act on it immediately. And so begins the next chapter in my love affair with brewing – making this love public. It’s time to talk to other brewers – learn from them, watch what they do – and get better. This homebrewing infatuation needs to be tested, forced to grow, its boundaries pushed to see if we’re really as compatible as I hope and pray we are.
P.S. Another of my favorite bi-products of my decision to learn to brew beer a few months ago is this – the way that beer-brewing brings people together. What began as a couple of us deciding to try our hand at making beer that doesn’t completely suck has turned into Sunday night event for anyone who wants to take part. Not including kids and spouses, there are now six of us who have been involved in brewing day – and I love it.