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On Finding and Being Yourself as a Home Brewer

Beer is an agricultural product that spreads it’s tendrils back to the early fermentations and distillations beginning with the dawn of human civilisation. It may even be the case that society formed around the creation and consumption of this magical ethanol. Making beer is a dark art of our cultural heritage. Beer is crafted and created by human beings from basic ingredients and comes with it’s own traditions, lore and legends. Beer is a social glue; beer is a chemistry experiment on every occasion; beer waxes poetic on a porch watching the sunset. And beer comes together into your glass both industrially (with the big lager producers) and by various scales down to the craft brewer and the home brewer.

And times have changed. There has never been higher quality or a greater choice in malt, hops and yeast available on the home brew scale. In fact, you only need look at the last couple of centuries of commercial beer to realise that craft brewing and home brewing have mushroomed hand in hand with the technological explosion of globalisation, the Internet and improved IT logistics. In other words, don’t underestimate the power of shipping containers, asynchronous communication, the speed and ease of Internet business and the ability of IT to improve production and supply chains. Historically, agricultural products never got to their destination at this level of quality. Without all that supporting business framework the craft brewing and home brewing landscape would be devoid of opportunity.

The question becomes – why? Why are you home brewing this agricultural product? And you’d be surprised by the reasons people might give… some mistakenly think it’s about cheaper beer; some for a few pints and a casual relaxing hobby; some people home brew because they want to geek out on the science and particularly the chemistry, because that part can get extremely complicated the deeper you dig. But the question is really why you’re choosing to do this thing that often gets described as 90 per cent cleaning, 5 per cent drinking and 5 per cent watching and worrying about whether you’ve messed something up?

And this is what I’m driving at about finding and being yourself as a home brewer.

For some people it’s about home brew clubs. And I get that. Learning from other brewers and making industry contacts is a great way to get your head around producing better beer. Competitions are also attractive, however much I’d argue that it’s a porter if I say so and not because the competition guidelines points to a honed description. In my brewing philosophy I began with one piece of advice – follow your tongue. So I make beer that I want to drink. And mead and fruit wine.

And yet other people home brew for the art of culinary satisfaction. Perhaps most of us do that, to some degree or another. But there are certainly those that treat making beer the same way as making a well crafted cake. Some of us love malty beers, others crave hoppy ones. But it’s still a big liquid cake.

In my home brewing landscape I’ve learned not to sweat brew day. A few degrees here and there don’t make a difference. I’m clean, efficient and beers tend to mess up in the fermenter, not the brew kettle. Letting go of brew day manic obsessive behaviours was a big thing for me. And I’m about continuous learning… I read a lot of books so there’s always a brewing related book within reach. But that’s me, that’s my journey and who I am in the home brewing hobby.

I also have the luxury of being a person of bad character. So I’ll never possess a liquor license, nor will my close associates. And that nefarious part of me is content that I’m not going to ruin a good hobby by investing my soul and other people’s money in what I see as an overly-competitive business sector. The profits are low, the work is hard and, to be totally honest, making beer at home is a luxury that this large house has provided me for most of the last decade. I just want to keep making good beer and improving that beer along the way.

For some people it’s going to be just about kit and kilo beers – buy a can of hopped malt, add corn sugar and some yeast and bingo, you’ve got beer. I’m more about grinding grain and working on recipes and refining my beers over iterations. Sometimes I fail spectacularly; mostly I make a pretty good beer that I greatly enjoy. There’s not a lot more satisfying that making a Belgian Imperial Stout or a Wee Heavy and ageing it in the basement (with a taster here and there).

Be competitive, don’t be competitive; be a club brewer, be a lone wolf; just follow your personal philosophy of brewing to the best of your ability. And I know that makes obvious sense, however much people will ignore it. Some things are just about the doing. That’s the fun of making beer.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark and I live in the Derwent Valley in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a mazer & a yeast farmer (making beer, fruit wine and mead as by-products of continuous improvement in my farming practices). I'm a photographer, although my film cameras are currently silent. I do not tolerate idiots. I do not tolerate bigotry. I do not tolerate excuses. Let's be clear, if you sit with my enemies you my are my enemy for life.

Blogger. Thinker. Brewer. Drinker. Life partner to the amazing and incredible Megan.

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