This month’s Session* topic is hosted by John at Homebrew Manual. He raises the topic of brewers and drinkers and writes:
Brewers and Drinkers is about your relationship with beer and how it’s made. Do you brew? If so why? If not, why not? How does that affect your enjoyment of drinking beer?
Here are some things to think about if you’re stuck:
- Do you need to brew to appreciate beer?
- Do you enjoy beer more not knowing how it’s made?
- If you brew, can you still drink a beer just for fun?
- Can you brew without being an analytical drinker?
- Do brewers get to the point where they’re more impressed by technical achievements than sensory delight?
- Does more knowledge increase your awe in front of a truly excellent beer?
I started homebrewing somewhere around 1997 and have dabbled in it off and on ever since. It is getting harder to remember, but craft beer was just emerging in Montana back then and choice was limited compared to today’s standards. Homebrewing offered a window into the magic of beer and the possibility of greatly expanded choice.
Truth be told, I wasn’t making very good beer, even acknowledging I’m my own worst critic. There were a few successes, including the time a scotch ale blew the top off the fermenter and somehow still turned out delicious.
Moving to all-grain brewing and playing around with my favorite hops to brew IPAs has changed all that. The process is more satisfying when starting from scratch (not to mention time consuming) and brew day is a great adventure of wonderful aromas and the promise of the next great thing. I’ve been warned at home not to let the IPAs run out – music to my ears.
So, let’s take a look at John’s questions:
Do you need to brew to appreciate beer?
Absolutely not. But it helps. This is true of any subject we express an opinion about. I can appreciate that my favorite college football team needs to fire it’s offense coordinator even though I never played the game. Yet it would help me articulate the reasons why and provide more credibility to my opinion if I’d played, and even better if I’d coached.
Being a home brewer provides perspective, appreciation and a little street cred, though it is considerably different than commercial brewing. It provides insight into the process of recipe formulation and the variations which ensue from the smallest of changes (or errors). There is no doubt it has increased my appreciation for those who do it well.
Do you enjoy beer more not knowing how it’s made?
I can’t answer that question except to to speculate. I’ve known how it was made for nearly twenty years and can’t remember a time during my craft beer exploration that I didn’t at least understand the basics. But beer isn’t sausage. It is a wonderfully interesting marriage of art and chemistry. I suspect all craft beer drinkers are at least curious to know how this great beverage is made and I can’t imagine anyone liking beer less because they learn the process.
If you brew, can you still drink a beer just for fun?
Absolutely. I do it all the time. Beer is a luxury and as a consumer and blogger, it’s good to remember not to take things too seriously at times. It’s fun to compare, contrast, deconstruct and critique. It’s equally fun to pour a favorite while kicking back in the shade on a hot summer day. Different fun for different days.
Can you brew without being an analytical drinker?
This question can be read two ways. Is it asking whether you need to be an analytical drinker in order to brew? Or does it ask whether being a brewer carries a danger of turning you into an analytical drinker?
Is being an analytical drinker a bad thing? Do any of us just pick up a beer and drink it with no thought at all? There are beers I know I like. Really like. I reach for them when the mood strikes and get lost in the flavors. I’ve already done the thinking about them. I equally enjoy trying new beers. Does paying attention to their aromas, flavors, colors and quality lessen the experience? Hardly.
Do brewers get to the point where they’re more impressed by technical achievements than sensory delight?
Not me. It took me a long time to switch to all-grain brewing because I was intimidated by what I didn’t know and wasn’t sure how complicated I wanted to get. It turns out it’s not that much more complicated and brewing has become more enjoyable. There’s a certain point where anything I do for fun can reach a level where it’s no longer fun. Take fly fishing. For me, it’s an excuse to wade the streams and let my mind wander to simpler pursuits. But the moment I have to pump fish stomachs to determine what they’re eating to select the proper flies, my fun is done. (Nice image, eh?)
With all-grain, I learned I could get a little more serious about it while simultaneously enjoying the process more and increasing the quality of my product. There are many more techniques and pieces of equipment I can add. Some I will. But for me, most aren’t likely to provide enough return on the investment.
Does more knowledge increase your awe in front of a truly excellent beer?
Nope. Try enough beer and the truly excellent ones will stand out no matter what you know about the brewing process.
There you have it. Another Session is in the books. To the brewers and non-brewers out there, how do you answer these questions?
*Today is the first Friday in January which means it’s time to take part in The Session, a collective effort of beer bloggers around the world to write on a common topic once each month.