Saturday, January 26, 2008

Why I brew beer

I began homebrewing in the mid-90's with my wife. We were just married and moved to a college town in Southwest Ohio. We both drank beer in undergrad school, although I was much more *enthusiastic* about it. We lived in a great area that had plenty of bars and restaurants, but we were just starting our independent lives, and we didn’t have enough money to go out often.

Then we found the local grocery store. We would often go to the store for the salad bar dinner and beer to take home. While picking up beer, we had found an entire aisle of mysterious names, and unusual descriptions. (This was an entire aisle at a store that had maybe five aisles; they were serious about their beer.)

I hate to admit it, but the first time we made the plunge from the normal Natural Light and ABC Lite was a Woodchuck Cider. I am sure it was my beautiful, new wife that wanted to partake in that creation. It was good, and unusual, and fun to try something new. I still backed it up with the twelve of our normal beers, since I still was very *enthusiastic* about beer.

From there, we made a regular ritual of getting the salad bar dinner and picking out a few new beers. I quickly gravitated to the commonly available British and Irish beers: Samuel Smith, Bass, Harp, Guinness, and Boddingtons. She gravitated toward more exotic and malty beers, Lindemans Kreik, Sam Adams Cranberry Lambic, Paulaner Hefe and Munich, Warsteiner varieties, Ayinger Hefe, and Hacker Pschorr all come to mind.

Here is the part of the story that is a bit ironic: I really have no memory of how we made the leap to brewing. I do remember I came into contact with a few brew shop catalogs and was fascinated with the process. But I don’t know who gave me the catalog, or where I got the idea to look for information. Maybe someone gave me a homebrew to drink? We have no recollection. We’ll just assume we were inspired after a particularly good session of sampling. It could be…

After reading a book or two, reading some online journals and websites (I was on the CATS-MEOW listserv before the whole Interweb fad started), I placed the order for my first setup. It was a plastic fermentor, plastic bottling bucket, airlocks, hoses, a 20’ wort chiller, and an extract kit for an IPA from one of the big catalog sellers.

That first batch had all of the potential in the world. It had a strong malt flavor, was citrusy and bitter, and had a great copper color. The problem was that it smelled and tasted so good as it fermented, and while it sat in the secondary, I sampled it several times prior to bottling. By the time it was bottle conditioned, air damage had taken hold. The cardboard notes sat right at the front and finished with a slight burning sensation.

But I was in. It was great fun to make, sample, taste, and talk about. So even though the first beer was a failure, I relaxed--and made another homebrew.

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