The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. You can find more information on The Session on Brookston Beer Bulletin.
This time around Jon Abernathy wants to talk homebrewing: “the good, the bad, your experiences, ideas, (mis)conceptions, or whatever else suits you, as long as it starts the conversation!” That sounds good, so I’m just going to talk about each of those things, though not necessarily in that order. I know, that probably doesn’t make sense to you, but you’ll get it in a minute, I promise. Wait, where are you going? Stahp!
My Experiences: I’ve been homebrewing for, huh, 7 years? But that’s incredibly misleading, as I don’t brew very often, and I think I’ve only made something like two batches in the past two years. However, I did just keg an Northeast IPA, which should be ready for the SuperBowl (go Iggles), so there is that. Also, I’m pretty basic with my setup, still doing extract brewing. I’ve played around with oak aging and even Brett once, to mixed results. Basically, I have an idea of what homebrewing is all about, but I’m far from an expert.
The Good: One of the reasons I started home brewing is that I spend most of my time working in a virtual world. Everything I produce for my job is digital in nature, and most of my home projects are also digital, so I really appreciated the idea of making something out here in meatspace. And when I manage to make a great batch of homebrew, it tastes so much better. Plus, getting familiar with the process of making beer is a great way to learn about beer, and you start to understand how various aspects of the process impact even beer you didn’t make. Finally, I really enjoy huffing empty hop packets.
The Bad: Well, I’ve managed to make some rather lackluster batches, and, well, having five gallons of a lackluster beer sitting around isn’t the most exciting thing in the world. One of the good things about having made a decent batch is that you get to share with friends and family… but when you make a bad batch? Nope! This is all compounded by the fact that it’s pretty rare that I drink the same beer over and over again. I mean, I’m getting better at drinking beers I’ve had before without thinking of it as a moral failure, but I’m still a novelty whore at heart, so drinking lot of the same beer, even when it’s decent, can still get me down. In addition, my eyes are bigger than my liver, so I almost always have way too much beer on hand at any given time, and homebrew only adds to that.
Ideas: I like the experimentation that a lot of homebrewers engage in, and I’ve done a little of that, like making an Earl Grey Bitter. I haven’t quite cracked the oak aging process, but my last attempt, a barleywine I calle Trystero did turn out pretty good (though I did have some issues with carbonation). My next batch of beer will include some oak aging, this time using oak cubes soaked in Aberlour A’Bunadh Scotch. As with my previous oak aging batches, I plan on splitting the batch in secondary, with some aging on oak, some not, and then when I get to bottling, do some plain, some oak aged, and some blend of the two. Then! I’m going to do few bottles of what I’ll call “fortified beer”, meaning that I’ll add some more straight Scotch to a small proportion of beer, bringing the ABV up to 15-20%. Could be a disaster, but hey, it’s worth trying, right? Whatever, I’m doing it anyway.
Misconceptions: I hope you are very patient and that you like cleaning things a lot, because you’ll need both of those things.
I’m really glad that I’ve played around with homebrewing and would definitely recommend the experience for anyone interested in learning more about beer. Or drinking a lot of the same thing. Whichever.