It’s really pretty simple. I enjoy drinking good beer. And I like to share that experience with friends and family. One might ask “well, can’t you do that without investing your time and resources into reading all kinds of obscure brewing websites, and getting overly excited about a really cool new immersion wort chiller?” And I’d say sure, of course you could. But what fun is that?

One of my friends, who is a big wine guy, had an interesting analogy, and I think it applies here. He said that winemakers are more like shepherds, and brewers are more like chefs. I kind of liked that. And it made perfect sense to me as a home brewer. A vintner spends years cultivating his land, creating the exact conditions necessary for his grape vines to flourish and produce the finest fruit possible. He may take those grapes and blend them with others to create a unique offering. But on the whole, wine makers are acting as a guide, primarily focused on bringing their grapes along on the path to perfection.

A brewer, on the other hand, typically takes four simple ingredients – water, grains, hops and yeast – and combines one part technical know-how and two parts inspiration to devise the best recipe they possibly can. Different than the wine maker, the brewer isn’t usually producing their own malt or hops. Although they do, of course, pay special attention to the quality of their ingredients, as it also defines the outcome of their efforts. Like a talented cook working his mastery and knowledge of the interaction between different seasonings and ingredients, the brewer concocts his “chef d’oeuvre”, his magnum opus. It’s a beautiful combination of science and art. Except unlike the science experiment you conducted in middle school, you usually put alot of silly smiles on people’s faces at the end of it all.

And the more I do it, the more I appreciate what real craft brewers must go through to formulate their recipes just the way they want them and put out a product that works. Because there are so many things along the way that can screw it all up. Like bacteria. Or the wrong mash temperature. Or bad yeast. Or lack of oxygen in the wort. Or…you get the idea. But the thing is, there’s a hundred ways to make a good beer. The challenge is finding the right process that works for you, and learning to work within that framework to express your creativity and craftsmanship.

The other thing I find so amazing about home brewing is that you can start with a few basic essential ingredients, and with just a few tweaks in the recipe, go from making a simple IPA to a Belgian Saison. Or a Brown Ale to an Imperial Stout. The spectrum of beer is fascinating. And just like wine, I think a good beer can be brewed to pair with any food or meal worth enjoying. Ever had Orval with a rich bleu cheese? Or Sierra Nevada Pale Ale with lobster?

But more than anything, I love that I’m able to bring a little enjoyment and happiness into the lives of my friends and family through my hobby. Because I think most of us associate beer with good times. My little secret though, is that I think making it can almost be more fun than drinking it.

Ahhh, who am I kidding. There’s nothing better than drinking a well-made beer.

Advertisements