“To Brew or Not to Brew "
A few years ago fellow beer enthusiast and BeerNexus
colleague, Vince Capano, wrote an article entitled “Ten
Beer Things You Really Must Do”, a bucket list of wishes
every beer lover should attempt to fulfill before he dies.
One of the items on the list was brewing a batch of
beer. Since that article appeared, U-Brew (a great home
brew supply shop) owner Dan Soboti and I have been
urging Vince to try his hand at the brewers craft,
unfortunately to no avail.
When the subject is broached he usually responds with
questions such as “What would I need to get?”, “How
much does it cost?”, or “Is it hard to do?” Those
questions are answered with the terse replies “a basic
beginner’s kit”, “about $100” and “no!” When the
questions are thus successfully fielded he’ll revert to the
vague excuse “Well maybe I will….someday”.
Dan and I then point out to him that his current status
as a semi-retired person certainly allows “someday” to
be more correctly defined as “now”, since the lack of
time is no longer an impediment. Hopefully, this article
will be the spark that finally gets him embarked on a
home brewing career, because with his love of craft
brews he’ll undoubtedly make some good ones and
check off another item on his own bucket list.
Of course our persistent urging could also unleash a
monster because his passion for craft beer DRINKING
might easily transcend into craft beer BREWING and
we’d never see Vince in the Gaslight Pub again. He’d be
spending all his waking hours sanitizing, mashing,
stirring, hopping, bottling, cleaning up and sampling the
Vince’s most recent evasive dodge when Dan and I
suggested once again that he should brew was “Why
should I?”, and that dodge was the inspiration for this
article. However, as the title suggests, I’ll also address
not only why Vince should brew, but also why he (or
anyone else) should not, and discount the negatives as
easily as Vince’s questions
The most obvious reason why anyone should brew is
the same as why any amateur should paint, sculpt,
gourmet cook, or do anything that one doesn’t actually
have to do: the sense of accomplishment and the
satisfaction of creation. Tasting the first glass of a
successful batch of homebrew you made yourself is a
pleasure second to none.
Perusing the latest offerings in the craft beer aisle of the
liquor store unveils another reason to brew. Contrary to
the government’s claim that there is no inflation, the
price of craft beer is soaring. The average sixpack is in
the nine or ten dollar range and it’s not unusual to see
sixpacks priced at twelve or more dollars, or worse yet,
grabbing what you thought to be a reasonably priced
beer and before placing it in the shopping cart
discovering that it’s only a four pack!
Close inspection of the labels of most imported craft
brews reveal that they’re only 11.2 ounces , rather than
12, yielding almost 5 ounces less per sixpack for the
same price. By comparison, the price of homebrew,
whether all-grain or extract (more expensive) is much
lower. I just finished brewing an American Pale Ale which
will yield two cases for which the ingredients cost $29,
an amount that would be lower still if I were doing all-
grain brewing and propagating my own yeast.
Brewing your own beer promotes neighborhood
camaraderie. When neighbors see my brew kettle boiling
away and me stirring with one hand and holding a glass
of homebrew with the other, they come to investigate
what’s going on and usually wind up hanging around
with a glass of homebrew in THEIR hands!
With just a little attention to detail and cleanliness it’s
relatively to use your own kitchen or deck to make a
beer that tastes infinitely more interesting than the
mass produced lagers that most Americans define as
Obviously, brewing beer enables one to enter homebrew
competitions occasionally scheduled by a beer
appreciation club such as Draught Board 15, (hint,
Vince), making the club member an active participant
rather than just a taster and judge. The anticipation of
the results when the competition is over and the votes
are being tallied is much more exciting when one of the
entries is your own.
Commercial brewers are subject to all kinds of
government regulations and taxes. Home brewers are
not, or at least can’t be caught breaking any rules.
What happens at home stays at home. A home brewer
can make any kind or strength of of beer he wants to
and have the fun of naming and labeling it without
government approval. The home brewer who wishes to
make a political statement by naming a big beer “Kick
Pelosi in the Ass Barleywine” may do so with no fear of
And government intervention brings us to the most
important reason why people should brew. With more
and more of our freedoms being eroded every day, it’s
only a matter of time before the elite ruling class again
tries to foist prohibition upon us. Already possessing
the equipment and skills necessary to make great beer,
the home brewer will be well prepared for this dreaded
There are also reasons not to brew, but almost all are
1. Home brewing takes valuable time away from craft
beer drinking. But not if you multi task and always have
an open brew at hand when brewing and bottling.
2. “There’s no room to keep all the equipment”. Easily
solved! Just throw away some furniture! Actually,
everything you need can fit nicely into two standard size
garbage cans which can then be kept in the basement,
garage or shed or even under the deck.
3. “I don’t know how”. Read Charlie Papazian and make
a great beer on your first attempt.
4. “It’s too much trouble”. So is marriage, but that
doesn’t stop most people.
5. “What if it doesn’t taste good? People might not like
it”. Don’t give any away; drink it all yourself! In reality if
the home brewer is present when an off beer is being
tasted, most fellow home brewers will usually say
nothing more disparaging than “interesting”. They might
even ask a question like “What kind of finishing hop did
you use?” and the resulting hop discussion will get their
minds off a bad beer.
6. “You could set fire to your deck” (as I did a few
years ago when making two batches of homebrew on a
windy February afternoon). See Beer My Way article
“Pints of Non Perfection”. Again, easily solved. Not using
your neighbor’s discarded dryer box as a windbreak will
prevent this catastrophe.
7. The best reason not to brew is also a reason to
brew for some: experimentation. Trying to imitate
nationally acclaimed brewers like Sam Calgione of Dog
Fish Head, some home brewers have turned to wildly off
the wall ingredients in order to brew a wide range of
eclectic beers. Not satisfied with vanilla, raspberry or
other common beer flavorings, home brewers have
asked that I try their forays into the world of
mentholated beer, peppermint beer, coconut beer and
other mouth puckering swill. I haven’t as yet been
offered a mayonnaise beer, but it’s probably in the
planning stages for some nut job home brewer. But
then again, a mayonnaise beer might go well with a
roast beef on rye!
So here we have the reasons to brew or not to brew,
with the positives far outnumbering the negatives. To
quote the aforementioned Charlie Papazian, “Relax!
Don’t worry! Have a homebrew!”
has to say
and it could
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Beer My Way.........
Beernexus.com proudly presents....DAN HODGE, beer reviewer, historian and raconteur
anything and everything about beer
by Dan Hodge