To Brew or Not to Brew…

That is the question that I wrestle with every so often. I love to eat great food, and this interest has led me to become an avid cook. I love the improvisation involved with putting together a great dish without using any measuring devices, just my senses. It’s creative, spontaneous and sensual.
I also love to drink great beer, and this has led me to consider brewing. The problem is that brewing beer and cooking are very different. Cooking is like playing jazz (it’s a performance), brewing is like composing classical music (it’s more of a science). Cooking is immediate, while brewing takes a long, long time. It’s easy for me to cook well, and (I imagine) it’s equally easy for me to create a horrible brew. I know this because there are so many available at my local beer store, and those guys are supposed to know what they’re doing.
The other thing that gives me pause (and to keep our comparison going) is that beer can’t be tasted and tweaked like a sauté can. I can smell ingredients and know how they’ll blend with the other contents of a dish. I can taste it in my head. But with beer, I have no frame of reference to smell some hops and know how they’ll integrate into a brew.
But the thing that really bums me out about home brewing is that it’s more about processing pre-selected ingredients than putting your mark on a brew. When I fantasize about brewing (which actually sounds pretty lame), I see myself as an alchemist, scooping up fresh barley of a particular strain, mixing it with the yeast of my choosing, and then hopping the brew with plants I’ve hand-selected (or even grown in my garden). Instead, it’s mostly “stir in packet one” and “boil packet two.” This probably gets a consistent, predictable result, but it’s also god-awful boring. I don’t want to drink Budweiser – why would I want to brew its clone?
So for now the answer remains the same – With so many great beers out there I haven’t tried, why would I spend my time making beer when I can be DRINKING beer? Leave the brewing to the experts. The problem is that after a couple of years as a beer fan, I want to know how what I taste in the glass was created. When I go to a restaurant, I can usually deconstruct a dish upon tasting it and then reconstruct it at home. I can do this because I cook and it has taught me how tastes come together. I increasingly have thoughts that I need to begin brewing to really understand the nuances of the beers I drink.
So to brew or not to brew, that is the question.

homebrew_basics-300x290That is the question that I wrestle with every so often. I love to eat great food, and this interest has led me to become an avid cook. I love the improvisation involved with putting together a great dish without using any measuring devices, just my senses. It’s creative, spontaneous and sensual.

I also love to drink great beer, and this has led me to consider brewing. The problem is that brewing beer and cooking are very different. Cooking is like playing jazz (it’s a performance), brewing is like composing classical music (it’s more of a science). Cooking is immediate, while brewing takes a long, long time. It’s easy for me to cook well, and (I imagine) it’s equally easy for me to create a horrible brew. I know this because there are so many available at my local beer store, and those guys are supposed to know what they’re doing.

The other thing that gives me pause (and to keep our comparison going) is that beer can’t be tasted and tweaked like a sauté can. I can smell ingredients and know how they’ll blend with the other contents of a dish. I can taste it in my head. But with beer, I have no frame of reference to smell some hops and know how they’ll integrate into a brew.

But the thing that really bums me out about home brewing is that it’s more about processing pre-selected ingredients than putting your mark on a brew. When I fantasize about brewing (which actually sounds pretty lame), I see myself as an alchemist, scooping up fresh barley of a particular strain, mixing it with the yeast of my choosing, and then hopping the brew with plants I’ve hand-selected (or even grown in my garden). Instead, it’s mostly “stir in packet one” and “boil packet two.” This probably gets a consistent, predictable result, but it’s also god-awful boring. I don’t want to drink Budweiser – why would I want to brew its clone?

So for now the answer remains the same – With so many great beers out there I haven’t tried, why would I spend my time making beer when I can be DRINKING beer? Leave the brewing to the experts. The problem is that after a couple of years as a beer fan, I want to know how what I taste in the glass was created. When I go to a restaurant, I can usually deconstruct a dish upon tasting it and then reconstruct it at home. I can do this because I cook and it has taught me how tastes come together. I increasingly have thoughts that I need to begin brewing to really understand the nuances of the beers I drink.

So to brew or not to brew, that is the question.

-Jim

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Categories: Beer

Author:Jim

Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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2 Comments on “To Brew or Not to Brew…”

  1. nostawetan
    September 17, 2009 at 10:03 pm #

    Do it. Do it, do it, do it. Such a fun and rewarding process. A while back we did a whole series on how to home brew. Right now it’s just extract brewing with some specialty grains. However, we plan on putting up a series on mashing before too long. Here is the link, if you are interested. http://thankheavenforbeer.com/category/how-to-brew-series/

    • Jim
      September 18, 2009 at 7:09 pm #

      I think I’m gonna, but there’s a lot to do to get going (I think). I don’t want to brew from a kit, I want to brew from a recipe using fresh ingredients if possible. Have you ever used the Beer Smith software?

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