RateBeer Weekly Magazine > Homebrewing
How Did I Start With Homebrewing?
ONE MAN'S JOURNEY FROM HOMEBREWER TO RATEBEERIAN
October 10, 2002
<P>I believe my humble beginnings in the hobby of homebrewing differ from most who enjoy the hobby. I got it backwards. My homebrewing led to the world of great beer whereas most homebrewers I know discovered great beer first.
<P>Homebrewing was all about cost for me initially, although it didn’t remain as such for very long. A good buddy of mine presented the idea of homebrewing to me sometime in 1999, and I’d never heard of it until then. I was skeptical, but told him I’d give it a go if we could produce reasonably good beer more cheaply (excluding startup costs of equipment, etc.) than I could buy the beers I was exploring in the grocery store at the time. Now, at this point I was just learning about the virtues of good beer and good beer meant Bass, Newcastle, Guinness and the occasional Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Porter.
<P>My buddy proved to me that homebrewing could be cheaper and also procured a free carboy to boot, so I began researching homebrewing techniques (he’s always the idea guy, I’m always the implementation guy). Two weeks later, we made a trip to the homebrew supply store and got a basic setup and an extract kit for an IPA. Neither of us had any idea what the heck an IPA was, but the homebrew guru at the shop said it was a good starter kit. That was good enough, and we were off to brew after shelling out $60 (US) for the setup and another $20 for the kit. Costs for subsequent batches have generally been between $30 and $45.
<P>I remember being incredibly meticulous throughout the process on that first brew day. We followed the instructions I found on the internet to the letter on everything from sanitation to stopping the boil at precisely 60 minutes. The day was a resounding success and we encountered no problems whatsoever – except my impatience and paranoia with the yeast. Took nearly 12 hours for it to start working. Of course, this seemed like 12 years to me. That first batch was merely drinkable, but we were incredibly proud to have 55 12oz bottles of glorious homebrew.
<P>We were eager to drink it as well as have our friends and families partake. We ended up giving about 15 bottles away. Most folks were polite, but you could tell they weren’t really into it. In all fairness, the beer did have a sharply bitter (in a bad way) finish that I now attribute to the use of hopped extract. It also suffered from a lighter than expected body. Other than that it was pretty similar to your average APA. It was beautiful to look at – nut brown with an average head.
<P>The real test of our first batch, which we named Princess Anne Pale Ale (It’s the name of the county Virginia Beach eventually consumed), was on the next brew day several weeks later. We decided we’d try to get drunk solely off of P. A. Pale. We must’ve drunk a 6 pack each while playing some shoot ‘em up game or another on the PlayStation without feeling any more than a bit tipsy. What a disappointment that was. From that day forward we’ve upped the malt content in all our brews. Our brews are now more full bodied and seem to have a healthier kick to them these days, although we’ve gotten a few remarks about lackluster body and mouthfeel from some enlightened beer folks.
<P>Subsequent brew days have become considerably more relaxed and less meticulous. They and the beers they produce are more creative now than they were three years ago. The challenge now is not learning the process. As the guy who figures out the implementation portion of the equation, I have a great deal of control over the styles we brew as well as what ingredients and procedures we use. That control gives me great latitude to create better and more interesting beers that satisfy me as a beer lover, and that is my challenge at this phase of homebrewing.
<P>My desire to produce ever better homebrew originally drove me to dig deeper into the world of beer. This search led quickly to RateBeer, and, well, you guys and gals know the rest. If not, hennes’ article on the evolution of a beer geek is required reading. The quest continues.
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