Relax... Don't Worry...
Have a Homebrew!
|I remember being told, sometime around 1985, that a person
could not tell the difference between one brand of beer and another.
Studies had been conducted and blind taste tests showed that people had
about a 50/50 chance of accurately guessing which brand was which when give
two brand choices. I believed this for awhile and even argued the
point with people as we would sit around drinking beer. One time while
out with some friends, a person at our table that I had just met was
drinking a Hales Ale and I brought this whole thing up with him. He
put the beer I was drinking (some American lager) next to his beer, asked me
to close my eyes while he moved the beers around, and then asked me to
sample the beer and see if I could tell the difference. Whoa!
What a difference! It was easy, time after time, to tell the
A few short months later a different friend offered me some beer that he had made himself. Well, I could definitely tell the difference between that home made beer and the stuff I had been drinking (Black Label I think it was). And I had never heard of home made beer before. I had heard of stills and home made wines but I had never heard of people making their own beer. I was intrigued. I asked my friend about what was involved and he made it sound so simple that within a week I had purchased a special plastic bucket, some tubing, a bottle capper, a can of malt extract, and a packet of beer yeast. I made my first batch of beer in the late summer of 1986. It wasn't bad.
I made two more batches of beer that fall. I bottled them in 16 oz, green Mountain Dew bottles; made some labels for them by cutting, pasting, and photocopying pictures and text; and gave most of them away as gifts that Christmas. They were a hit. And I had a new hobby.
I quickly learned that homebrewing was as much science as art and I began learning all that I could about it. I read a book by beer guru Michael Jackson (not the white gloved guy) and discovered that there are over 20,000 different styles of beer in the world and that the American stuff that I had been drinking (Bud, Miller, Coors, Ranier, etc), including all of the different "styles" that were marketed, like Light, Dry, and Premium, were only one style of beer - American Lager. Further, I learned that the American Lager style of beer that was so popular in the U.S. was actually a girls beer. Yep! That's right. American beers were brewed for women. You see, American's used to have a rich brewing history - with breweries on every corner brewing a huge variety of different beer styles. Then the prohibition mistake was made which put most of them out of business. The ones that survived began making malted products instead of beer. Once prohibition was lifted we began to see breweries flourish again, but never like it was before prohibition. Once World War I was upon us most of the men were out of the country, leaving mostly women back home. The breweries at the time began brewing lighter beers that would appeal to the women at home. And that's how we ended up with the American Lager style of beer. American Lager is really just a very light bodied Pilsner style of beer. Part of the reason that it's so light bodied is that it's supplemented with rice, which when fermented contributes very little taste or body to the beer. It's also much cheaper to brew with so it's much more profitable for the American breweries.
Well, with over 20,000 different styles of beer out there I was determined to sample my fair share of them. Over the next several years I brewed as many of them as I could and even made up a few of my own beer styles. My Italian beer shared many of the same ingredients with my spaghetti recipe (oregano, thyme, bay leaves, etc) and my Breakfast Stout included enough caffeine to really start your day off right.
My methods and techniques became more and more involved. I was doing everything from malting my own grains to growing my own hops. I was frustrated with the quality and selection of supplies in my area and I yearned to meet more homebrewers like me so that we could exchange ideas and techniques. I had read about homebrew clubs in Zymurgy - the magazine for homebrewers published by the American Homebrewers Association. So, I decided to start one myself. I put sign up sheets at the local supply shops (there were actually no actual homebrew supply shops - just drugstores and other odd places that stuck a few supplies on a shelf in the back corner of their store) and waited to see what interest there might be. It took a while but I got a few names, called them up and invited them over to my place for the first meeting.
Homebrewer's of the Palouse was born. Homebrewers of the Palouse, or HOPs for short, was begun by myself and a few other folks who enjoyed homebrewing. It think I still have the original sign up sheet somewhere. That was around 1988 I think. The club is still around and still going strong. If you 're in the Moscow, Idaho / Pullman, Washington area and interested in joining you can send an email to me at email@example.com.
I was also driven to meet the supply needs of homebrewers in the area. I opened Kane's Brew Haus and sold beer and wine making supplies. At first it was just for local homebrewers and then I expanded to catalog sales too. It was before the internet was really being used much for commercial purposes and so I didn't have that as an outlet. I ran that business for about three years. During that time I also taught the area's first homebrewing course through the University of Idaho's Community Enrichment Program and produced a "how to" video for beginning homebrewers. It's still a great resource today. It's two hours long and takes a person through the entire brewing process. It's available for $12 if you contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Homebrewed beer is a great thing. I've never met an asshole that brewed their own beer but I have met a lot of really good friends that are homebrewers. Homebrewing can be as simple as you can imagine or as complex as you want to make it. It's natural, healthy, and inexpensive. You can do it alone or with friends. If you haven't tried homebrewing - give it a try. If you're already a homebrewer - my hat is off to you and I recommend that you find out what Real Beer is all about. Either way...
In the words of Charlie Papazian, founder of the American Homebrewer's Association...
Relax... Don't Worry... Have a Homebrew!