The Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community, started by Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer. On the first Friday of each month, all participating bloggers write about a predetermined topic. Each month a different blog is chosen to host The Session, choose the topic, and post a roundup of all the responses received. For more info on The Session, check out the Brookston Beer Bulletin’s archive page.
“Brewers and Drinkers is about your relationship with beer and how it’s made. Do you brew? If so why? If not, why not? How does that affect your enjoyment of drinking beer?”
“The more I learn the less I enjoy mediocre beers, knowing how easy they are to make. Similarly, great beers seem all the more impressive now.”
“Apart from this general change, I’ve also become a more analytical drinker. I try to identify flavours in a way that I never did before.”
A timely topic! Until very recently, I was simply a drinker. However, as of ten days ago, I have taken the first (tiny) steps to become a brewer.
When I began my journey into discovering the wider spectrum of beers, beyond mainstream Australian lagers (i.e. when I discovered craft/real/good beer), I drank beer simply because I enjoyed the flavour, the diversity and the experience. I did not need to know how it was made. The brewing process had no relevance to my experience of the beer. It was a simple sensory sensation.
Skip forward a couple of years to today and I find myself living in a space were beer is more than a drink, it is a conversation.
I talk and tweet with beer lovers/nerds/geeks and brewers from all over. I write a beer blog and beer news articles for an online beer magazine. I report on the beer industry. I attend beer events. Simply drinking beer is no longer enough in these circumstances, because a conversation must be more than one short sentence.
These conversations have ignited in me a desire to know what makes a beer look/taste/feel like it does. I already know a great deal about the processes of brewing, but it’s the techniques that now intrigue me. Recipe development, equipment requirements, fault avoidance and correction are all still relatively foreign to me. The basic “hows” of making beer are in my head, but the “whys” are not. Hence, I seek to learn about the techniques and language of brewing by becoming a home brewer. Afterall, the whole of brewing and beer fascinates me in general.
I love talking to brewers about beer. Their passion for the full life-cycle of beer is regularly captivating. Therefore, I want to understand more so that I can help keep the conversation fresh and interesting for both sides (…not that keeping brewers talking about brewing is often a problem…especially in some extreme cases…*cough*Hendo*cough). I don’t want to be that person who asks the same rudimentary questions every time, which I have felt myself doing so recently. Others may be perfectly happy with that position, but I’m a sucker for knowledge.
For me to continue as part of the beer conversation, I need to develop my communication with brewers. To excel as a journalist of the beer industry, a writer about beer and an advocate for the enjoyment of good beer I don’t need to have skill (that’s a requirement for professional brewers) but I do need to comprehend and interpret the nuances of beer and brewing. I could just read every book ever written about beer, and I will have a good crack at doing so, but I learn best through practical experience. My comprehension and interpretation will develop best through visual and physical exposure. Hence, my way forward from here is to brew.
I had avoided home brewing in the past, citing a lack of patience and creative potential, as well as a disdain for maths. Silly excuses, which are a result of my laziness and timidity.
The decision to attempt home brewing was jointly instigated with my wife, Jenn, last year. We both saw the potential and need for a better understanding of beer from grain to glass. I have declared Jenn the Head Brewer for our home brewery, because she is much better with ingredients and flavours (hence her home cooking excellence) and she is the more naturally creative of us. We have an unused bathroom downstairs, which has purple walls. The bathroom is now “The Purple Bathroom Brewery”.
On Boxing Day we took the first small step with the most basic, “just add water”, versions of brewing. It was hardly brewing. We poured a fresh hopped wort kit from a homebrew shop into a plastic fermenter, added hot water, added cold water, pitched yeast, added a finishing hop tablet, then left the container in a dark corner (whilst making sure everything was clean and sterile!). Our beer will be called the “Boxing Day Test Batch” (you may only get the quirk of that name if you are Australian or follow cricket).
It was simply step one, but already we are starting to better understand WHY each component of brewing is part of the process.
Nonetheless, with all the knowledge I have already gained about beer and brewing over the last few years, I still hold to the sentiment that truly enjoying and experiencing beer is a simple sensory sensation.
The real enjoyment of beer comes from a five senses experience when drinking, not just of the beer itself, but also of the time and place/environment that surrounds you.
If you are becoming to analytical about the beer you are drinking…the solution is easy, just have another one! Alcohol inhibits the analytical portion of the brain, encouraging creative decision making. So let’s all have more beer and let the creativity flow! Art vs science, it’s how beer should be.
Oh…and by the way…all of the above could actually change once we’ve finished and tasted our first home brew. It may then change again once we start all-grain brewing…! Maybe I’ll revisit this topic in a year’s time.
I’m not a brewer yet, just a drinker on the pathway… and I’m happy to have a conversation about it anytime!