Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

August 26, 2009

Home Brewin’:

Home Brewing Is For Heroes

Making just a single batch of home-brewed beer will send you down the path toward enlightenment.
by Eddie Glick

I like my beer like my women: pale, strong, full-bodied, and extremely bitter.
Contact Eddie»
Somebody semi-wise—I think it was Chuck Klosterman, but I’m not quite sure. Chuck, if you’re reading this—and we all know you are—and it wasn’t you, I’m sure you know who it was, so please drop me a line and correct me—once wrote, “You don’t get into Slayer for, like, a summer.” If you get into Slayer, it’s for fucking life, kind of like an STD. (Personally, I’m not a big Slayer fan. Too light.)

Well, the same thing goes for home brewing. Once you brew that first batch—and those who home brew can attest to this—it’s like diving head first down the rabbit hole. There ain’t no going back. Yes, even after a single batch—even if it’s just a straight pre-packaged recipe with extract and no specialty grains—you’ll very soon notice some changes about yourself.

For one, you’ll be constantly aware of different foodstuffs around you, and you’ll find yourself in deep thought, wondering whether you could brew with it. At the grocery store, strangers will notice you standing rigid in the produce section, staring rapt at a rutabaga, mumbling to yourself, “I bet you I could make some kick ass beer out of that …”

Commercial beer—even fantastic craft beer—will taste a shade less satisfying. I remember my first clone brew I made: Fat Tire. Pacific Northwest Dork Ade Solomon was flying into the Midwest, and I persuaded him to bring in a couple of bottles of the real thing (years ago, before Fat Tire was everywhere, and you could get on a plane with a twelve pack of beer as your carry on). We did a blind taste test, side by side. I’ve looked down my nose at Fat Tire ever since.

And that’s just quality craft beer. Industrial swill—well, suffice it to say you probably won’t look at it as actual beer anymore. And nor should you. Brews like Bud Light have as much to do with beer as a Slim Jim has to do with a prime cut of steak. On more than one occasion you’ll find yourself sitting ass-deep in your couch in front of the TV—with or without a home brew in your hand—when a commercial for some of this horrid macro shit comes on, and you’ll say out loud, “I can make beer better than that in my damn kitchen.”

All of these reasons are good ones to begin home brewing. But that’s not why I’m urging every person on the planet to take up the art. No, I think everyone should home brew at least one batch, because even that single batch, no matter how simple the recipe and ingredients, will teach you so much about how to taste beer that it’ll give you a huge boost in your appreciation of craft beer. Because once you understand the basics of what goes into beer—when you smell those hop pellets, taste the extract syrup, see the yeast in action—you’ll be able to start mentally pulling apart the different flavors, and get a deeper understanding of the beer you’re sipping. Granted, it won’t instantly make you a beer-tasting expert—I’ve been home brewing for more than five years and I can fill up a warehouse with what I don’t know about tasting beer—but will make you … well, a better drinker for lack of the right word.

You’ll instantly appreciate a finely crafted small batch beer all the more. And you’ll feel a sense of kinship to the brewers who created it, because a huge proportion of them got their start with that very first home brew in the kitchen. And, unlike industrial “beer,” what you’re doing isn’t all that much different than what your favorite craft brewer is doing. Sure, it’s on a bigger scale, they use grain instead of extract, sometimes filter their beer, occasionally age it in barrels, rarely play with wild yeast and lactic bacteria, but the basics are the same. I once heard a craft brewer say that if you magically transported an ancient Egyptian brewer to a modern craft brewery, silently showed him (or her) the beermaking process from beginning to end, and then proffered him (or her) the finished product, that ancient Egyptian would understand that he (or she) was about to sip a beer. That’s how basic and primeval craft beer—and home brewing—is.

(Now contrast that with taking an ancient Egyptian brewer around the Bud plant. “Why is there a long beechwood rod [A-B stopped lagering with wood chips long ago] in your beer?” he’d ask, in ancient Egyptian, of course. And the answer would be, “Because the marketing department said so.” At which point the ancient Egyptian would scratch his head and ask, “What is this ‘marketing department’ you worship? It sounds a lot like our pharoah …’)

Home brewing, in other words, is for heroes. Brewing beer makes you a better beer drinker and, let’s face it, a better all around person. So go out and grab that starter kit at your local home brew shop. And if you already home brew … well, that’s its own reward. Happy brewing!

Today is the feast day of St. Arnold, patron saint of beer.

Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

Beer Dorks News

Want to know how healthy the craft beer industry is? As always, look to Portland. Craft pioneer Bridgeport announces sudden closure, adding to a growing list of PDX casualties.
Did Anheuser-Busch Chicago offer their shit beer to Cody Parkey before his missed field goal? Because that may explain why he "accidentally" biffed it.
Chicago now has the most breweries of any city in the country. Other things Chicago has the most of: murders, mobsters, and Ditkas.
Trying to spin it positive, BA releases end of year graphic. Only 5% growth in the craft sector when nearly 1000 new breweries opened? That's a collapse waiting to happen.
R.I.P. Tallgrass... another casualty as the regional/national craft beer market continues to get squeezed.
Wait... Constellation Brands cut all of the Ballast Point and Funky Buddha sales staff? They merged it with their Corona/Modelo staff?? We're SHOCKED!!!
Pizza Beer founder crying about failure of company, blames everyone else. Reminder, the beer tasted like vomit. Try having better ideas or making better products so you're not a failure.
It's Bud Light so doesn't really matter, but we expect this beer to be sitting around for awhile.
Indiana brewery to open with controversial beer names to "get the conversation going". Translation: taking advantage of serious issues for free publicity.
Hundreds of amazing beers in Wisconsin and the Cubs took back the one everyone drinks just because it exists and people have heard of it. How fitting...