Monday, January 16, 2012

My "It's Complicated" relationship with homebrewing

Furious clone homebrew from
Wooden Shoe Brew House
I really would like to be a great homebrewer.  However, I fear that I'm never going to be better than mediocre.  The evidence presented to the left is a glass of my Furious clone from the Northern Brewer kit.  The brew kit was good, and even a bit of fun to brew.  My main mistake (besides too much bottling sugar that caused the excessive head) was that the large amount of dry hops caused a lot of sediment that I wasn't able to clarify.  As result, the beer must be poured very carefully to avoid a cloudy beer with an off flavor.  Smells like Furious, tastes like Furious, more or less.  Not bad.  Not great, either.

My main issue is that I don't brew for the love of it and I don't brew often.  I starting homebrewing because I thought my learning had topped out from tasting beer only.  The brewery tours only made so much sense, and I needed to play with the ingredients and make my own beer to move to the next level of  beer knowledge.  I feel like I've learned what I wanted after nineteen batches, and, now, I'm looking for a new reason to homebrew.

Reason #1.  Cost.  Right now the main motivation for me is to create beers that are expensive and that I could make for a much cheaper price for weekday drinking.  This generally means high gravity beers like double IPAs or barleywine.  High gravity means more fermentation issues, which I've had in a cold house.

Reason #2.  Unique beers.  One thing I liked brewing and that's turned out well was a fresh hop ale.  I have a simple recipe that works well (twice now), and I really enjoy opening a fresh hop beer that smells like summer when I open it in January.  Also, I have some historical recipes that I would like to brew for the perspective.  Batch #7 was a recipe for the original 1982 bottle conditioned Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.  After brewing it, I bought a six pack of the present Sierra Nevada to taste side by side.  I would like to do more batches along that line.

Reason #3.  Homebrew media is among my favorites.  I like listening to Basic Brewing Radio and watching Brew TV podcasts.  Granted, I mostly prefer their interviews and interactions at GABF, brewpubs or pro brewers, but the homebrewing is interesting as well.  But, I feel like a lurker since I like the information, but not really motivated to brew more myself.

However, as I often say (half) jokingly, I'm more of a taster than a maker.  Issues I have with homebrewing include:
  • 5 gallons of one beer.  I struggle buying a six pack at times since I like new beers.  To practice more, I would have more beer around, which cuts into my ability to try new beers in the exploding Minnesota craft beer industry.  
  • I've noticed homebrewers are often good cooks, handy mechanical types and/or freewheeling experimenters. While I admire this qualities, I possess none of them.  
  • Cold house and stuck fermentations, and temperature control in general. 
  • Bottling is a lot of work, but I don't want a draft line in the house.  
  • Presently, my beer quality doesn't match what I can buy.  
  • It's less work to go to the Four Firkins. 
  • I secretly fear that, even with extensive practice, I will never be that good at it.  
So, that's my complicated relationship with homebrewing.   At the heart of my problem is that I like calling myself a homebrewer and being a part of the club.  I have plans for my next batches of brew, but don't know when the spark will happen that will get me to pull out the brew kettle for a day of boiling.   In the meantime, I'll drink up my own beer and save the last one to drink with my next batch--someday.  


  1. Cal, I started my first batch of pale ale today. I bought a kit at the MOA for $40.00 that makes between 4 and 5 gallons. Hopefully it goes well, but i do agree that it is cheaper to buy at the liquor store. For the next batch i plan to order with northern brewing company. there prices seem much more reasonable. Ill let you know haw it tastes in a few weeks. Thanks Again for the advice.

  2. No worries. Glad to help. The "advice" is a future post. Good luck and hope it goes well. It does improve after the first batches, in spite of my negativity.

  3. Give yourself a break, Cal. The Furious clone was good. Keep at it and you'll get great. Wait and see.