ADVENTURES IN BEERLAND
Vince Capano
is a two time winner of
the prestigious Quill and
Tankard writing award
for humor from the
North American Guild of
Beer Writers.  

Vince's column is now
a regular feature of
beernexus.com
Home Brewing Delimma
Bah- humbug.  Scrooge had the right sentiment but for the wrong holiday.  Sorry Ebenezer, but Christmas
is wondrous, it’s the New Year’s rigmaroles that deserve your condemnation.  Staying up late to watch a
ball, be it from Tiffany’s or the NBA, drop is a yawn.  Listening to soused hordes sing Auld Lang Syne with
words whose meanings are totally obscure to all but the members of the official Robbie Burns fan club is a
waste of time.  There is however one New Year’s tradition that actually has some value.  And that’s the
making of resolutions.  New Year’s resolutions bring fresh starts, new beginnings, and the chance to take
the first steps in answering the deepest questions of existence which is just the type of question I’m dealing
with now.  Yes, this new year brings me face to face with the cosmic question, to brew or not to brew?

To brew, or not to brew that is the question—
Whether 'tis Nobler to drink the handiwork
Of highly trained brewers whose expertise is undeniable  
Or to take some pots and kettles and bottles,
And by sweat of brow to make my own brew—,
But failure may ensue, there's the rub,
Could however that it be great
Allowing one to shuffle off from store bought brew ever again.

When it comes to recruiting people to their hobby, home brewers are straight from the Chautauqua
circuit of proselytizing.  Be it a song, a dance, or a sermon they’ll do just about anything to get you to join
them.  Sometimes they even make a few good arguments.  Well, make that a few arguments, I’ll let you
judge their quality.

Almost every home brewer I’ve ever met tells me that their hobby gives them an incredible personal
satisfaction.  They have made something worthwhile and have done it all by themselves.  Hey, I make
breakfast all by myself but don’t get any inner joy or self pride from pouring milk into Cheerios.  Guys, you’re
just making beer not forging a homestead on the wild frontier. Scratch argument number one for me.

Next I’m told that my home brew will be better than many commercial versions.  Huh?  More times than not
when tasting someone’s home brew I have to paste a phony smile on my face and try to force out a few
totally disingenuous sentences about how it tastes.  It’s not easy to make something up while trying to
sound like that’s exactly what you’re not doing.  Maybe next time I’ll just say yeah, those wonderful notes of
cardboard, rotten eggs and burnt popcorn are just lovely.

Next I’m told that commercial breweries don’t always use the best ingredients but as a home brewer I can.  
It’s easy, they say, to go online or to my local home brew shop for the finest stuff known to mankind.  Home
brewers love to spin tales, taller than the plants themselves, about the proud history of grains and hops.  
They sing of the American spirit personified by the individual artesian farmer, lovingly caring for his hop
vines and amber fields of grain, handling each with the tender love of a new parent.  I’m guessing that
means the farmer has washed the manure off before shipping it to market.  I can’t quite believe that Farmer
Brown is out there in his little house on the prairie working on his John Deere just for home brewers.  

Farming is a corporate thing, I think.   To be sure about that I looked up the statistics and found this on
Wikipedia (hey it was the first site to come up on Google) - “
Although 14% of total food production comes
from the two percent of all farms in the United States that are owned by corporations or other non-family
entities, 50% of food production comes from the biggest two percent of all farms. In 1900, it came from
17% of all farms
.”  I have no idea what that means so it clearly confirms my position.  

Besides, no matter what home brewers say, there’s no way the erstwhile men of the soil are out there
growing hops just for home brewers.   Somehow it strains credulity to suggest that any farmer will go out of
his way to make sure I get two ounces of his produce while the serious brewery that ordered 5000 pounds
has to wait.  Oh, and I get the discount price too.

Another big plus of home brewing according to its champions is that it allows a person to make the kind of
beer they really want.  No longer will I have to settle for going down to the store to buy a bourbon barrel
aged Russian Imperial Stout, now I can make that strawberry mint walnut carrot huckleberry saison  I’ve
always longed for (after onset of early Alzheimer’s that is).  Sorry fellas, that’s not much of an argument.  
While that saison might not be out there for purchase many, let’s be kind, unusual beers are.  Actually, the
chance to make a Double Dry Hopped Super Cascade Infused With Citra Sierra Nevada Celebration style
beer just might be a winning argument for a hop head like me.  Hmmm.

Imagine, my home brewing friends go on to argue, not having to wait for a seasonal to come out.  Home
brewing allows one to have their favorite beer regardless of season.   They’re right.  Case in point I just
went to my local packaged good purveyor and nary any “winter” beers were left.  Here it is in early January
and a few spring brews are already on the shelf.  Summer beers crowd the shelves in spring, fall beers now
appear in summer, and so on.  Then again, Coors Light is available all year round.  There’s got to be a
moral there.

Home brewing proponents often play the money card.  It’s simple math they say.  A six pack of home brew
will cost about $3 to make, while a six pack of good craft beer is going for $10 or more.  Unless you’re
Donald Trump, who wouldn’t be caught dead drinking anything as pedestrian as beer, or Bill Gates, who
simple doesn’t spend less than $200 for anything, that’s one argument you can’t ignore or minimize.  As for
that $3 figure, I’m sure it’s accurate especially if you don’t have to buy any brewing equipment, bottles, or
ingredients.  Throw in the cost that you might have to dump an undrinkable home brew and the money
saving argument loses a bit of California Common (that’s “steam” for those not bothered by copyright
infringements.)  Don’t get me wrong; I honestly believe home brewing does save money but only when the
principle of economies of scale kicks in.   Unfortunately that’s somewhere around the amount produced by
Budweiser.

Simply put, bad beer at a cheap price is no bargain.  Well, that’s not always true.  I recently attended a
$.80 a glass (no misprint – that’s 80 cents a glass) Pabst Blue Ribbon night at the Cloverleaf Tavern,
generally acknowledged as one of the better craft beer bars in the area.  The place was packed with their
regular crowd of very sophisticated  aficionados and just about every one of them was ordering PBR.  
Aside from the throwback price and fun of saying “Hey bartender here’s $10. Give me ten glasses and
keep the 25% tip” what other reason would they have to chug down the beer hipsters’ revived from the
dead?  

Home brewing is also a social endeavor according to its advocates.  It will let you to make new friends and
impress old ones by just handing out free bottles of your beer.  After all, what right minded individual could
resist two of the most wonderful things on the planet – beer and free!  That’s one argument I agree with.  
Just to prove it, if anyone out there wants to send me a bottles of free home brew that’s actually good, I will
gladly let you count me as your friend.  Take that Facebook!

After all this I’m still not sure about trying home brewing.  Guess I’ll have to think a bit more about it.
That's long enough; I just can't get the idea of drinking a Double Dry Hopped Super Cascade Infused With
Citra Sierra Nevada Celebration clone out of my  head.  

I'm going to look up directions to that
U-Brew shop right now.





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