I started brewing beer at home twenty years ago. I’ve been an on-again, off-again homebrewer: production has been interrupted several times due to household moves (5), parenting, job changes (too complicated to number or discuss), and the waxing and waning of personal interest. A year ago my son encouraged me to pick up my hobby again – my equipment had been sitting in a box in the garage for nearly five years. I had found the demands of a full-time job, part-time job, and graduate school all at the same time too much to be able to consider taking the time to make beer at home. Those were sad years for the state of beer in my house.
All told, I’ve brewed 62 five-gallon batches of beer in the last 20 years, and 21 of those in the last year. 21 x 5 = 105 gallons, so I am still way under my legal limit of 200 gallons/year for my household, I know, I’m working on it! Statistics for my 62 batches fall out like this:
13 American Style Pale Ales, ESBs
11 Stouts, including 1 Cherry Stout
9 English Style Pale Ales, ESBs
9 Belgian Style Ales
3 Brown Ales
2 Ginger Bitters
1 “Steam” Beer
I’m an “extract” homebrewer. I have yet to make the transition to “all-grain” brewing, although, it is quite possible I will take the plunge soon (in the next months or years). I look forward to documenting the plunge, when it comes, in this blog. Nowadays homebrewers can make thoroughly excellent beer from malt extract – the variety and quality of products available for homebrewing has improved exponentially in the last two decades.
I started brewing in 1994 when an Australian co-worker who brewed at home offered to show me how. His primary argument for the hobby was financial! I still laugh to think of this. While you CAN make beer at home for significantly less cost than that of comparable commercial beers, it’s not the right reason to take on this activity, in my opinion. My first few batches were made from pre-assembled kits, with dry ale yeast. With the help of Charlie Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Home Brewing (I still have my tattered first edition copy) and other books I soon graduated to following and formulating recipes using specialty grains and designer yeasts, and voila! I was hooked.
Homebrew IS craft beer. Most craft brewers got their start homebrewing and the beer I make is every bit as good as (or better than) the craft beer I get at taprooms, restaurants, and bars around town. Part of the reason I like brewing five-gallon batches is the opportunity to try to make as many different styles as possible and to perfect and experiment with my favorites. (It’s also one of the reasons I have put off the transition to all-grain brewing, which due to the time commitment involved in mashing, seems to require ten-gallon batches to be feasible.)
I try to brew twice a month, enough to keep a variety of home-brewed beers on hand all the time. Some months it’s not possible of course – this is a hobby – I may not brew at all one month and then brew three batches the next.
What this blog is not
There are many excellent websites, videos, blogs, and other resources to learn to brew. I am not going to attempt to create yet another here. I am doing this primarily to practice my writing, actually! As described above, I have a fair amount of experience and knowledge as a hobbyist and beer drinker, and hope to be able to share some of it here in an informative and entertaining way. Nashville’s craft beer culture is an exciting microcosm of our national craft beer movement, and to me the two topics – homebrewing and craft beer – are inextricably linked, or one and the same. I am sharing my research.