Monday, January 26, 2009

Observations on the Old Ways

Why do brewers spend so much money? I must have met dozens of homebrewers in my lifetime who would spend their inheritance at the drop of a dime for the latest gimmick. Some brewers obsess over their equipment so much that in the passionate pursuit of gadgetry they lose sight of the reason they began their brewing journey: beautiful beer.
Some of the sexiest beers that ever crossed my lips came from a stovetop kettle. I remember some of the very first extract batches I threw together with my buddy Steve, we surely didn't know how to do it "right" but in the end we were laughing while blowing the foam off the most quaffable nut brown ale that we ever drank (up to that time, of course). Papazian was right to encourage relaxation, less worry and so and so.
The funniest moments in my homebrew world are when brewers try to talk like they really know what the hell they're saying. A few of them just poop from the mouth so badly you want to insist they wash it down with a nice IPA, keep quiet and just let the damn kettle boil. "What? No, I really don't want you to tell me about your trip to Seibel and why I'm not able to convert every single living starch in my mash to the fermentable sugar of the Gods!"
The truth is that most good brewers realize that they have to keep to the basics, clean equipment, high quality and fresh ingredients, lots and lots of yeast, stable temperature and most important of all, passion! I always encouraged up and comers to keep copious notes but not be anal about every single damn thing, you tend to lose the trees altogether while searching for a twig, if you know what I mean. In the homebrew world there are such things as Star Trek brew geeks and I'm sure they flood Denver every year looking for Charlie and all his pals (he probably doesn't mind, he's so damn cool it kills me).
I am taking my brewing "science" acquired over years of overpursuit and challenging my whole outlook on beer. From now on I wish to become a purist, a traditionalist, hells bells even a slightly Orthodox brewer! I don't want to hear about the Japanese developing pure yeast strains in magnetically charged food grade balls that can guarantee a lifetime of repitching without laboratory support, no! I want to search ebay for the manuscript written by Joe Brewer Smucatelli in the 1800's before Prohibition destroyed our industry, I wish to rediscover wood barrels in my home system, nurture the ingredients from the soil by hand and make a truly local beer. I want to be the old man in the backyard in Bermuda shorts and long black socks mixing a mash with a mostly smoked cigar in my mouth.


  1. Sounds like an honest pursuit of brewing happiness! BTW, I think I already am that old man, except right now where I live it's exactly 4 degrees. I'll wear the shorts come June!

  2. That is why my family migrated to Florida from Wisconsin. They gave up lagering weather for beach weather...