You see, it’s not that I don’t have a passion for craft beer anymore. I have been spending a lot of time focusing on my home brewery; specifically, I have been trying to figure out the problem I’ve been having with some efficiency issues, but more on that in a minute. For now, I’d like to ask you a question: Do you brew? If not, why not? You see, I am becoming more and more firmly of the opinion that no other activity will improve your feel for what can be done with beer as much as brewing your own beer.
To begin, of course, you’ll be brewing using ingredient kits put together by others. It’s how we all started out. Eventually, though, most people will seek to know more about the craft. They will wonder how the big boys do it. If, in fact, it’s as simple as getting together an extract kit and putting it all together, why doesn’t everyone brew their own beer? Well, the answer to that is that it’s not that simple if you begin designing your own recipes, and THAT, my congregants, is where the art is.
When you start developing your own recipes, you have to start thinking about the various flavors the components bring to the party that is your beer. It’s not enough to grab an aromatic variety of hops for your flavoring hops and call it good. Do you want overwhelming citrus? Do you want more resin flavors? Floral? You need to know what each hop is doing in order to ensure you’re not creating a muddle of flavors. This is where you begin to develop your ability to distinguish various flavors and characteristics that will make it possible for you to appreciate beers on a whole new level.
So if you’re not brewing, you should be. Yeah, it’s a lot of work. Yeah, you can go down to the store and buy a 6-pack of beer much easier than you can make beer. However, you’re not going to experience the satisfaction that you will once your first tasty batch is done. Very little in life compares to enjoying your own beer. Very little can frustrate you as much as brewing, as well.
Lately, I have had an issue that just won’t go away. The last couple batches I’ve done have been low in terms of the fermentable sugars I’ve gotten out of my grain. In brewing, this is called the extraction efficiency. In homebrewing, you shoot for something like 70%-75%, and I’ve been hitting more like 52%, which is pretty much unacceptable. There are a lot of possible reasons for this kind of efficiency mess. On the one hand, the crush of the barley used can affect things significantly, and on the other, the way you rinse the grain can affect things. I am making pretty sweeping changes, from acquiring a grain crusher to getting a false bottom and sparge arm for my mash tun. All of these changes will hopefully increase my efficiency significantly.
All of this to say that it’s easy to get sidetracked from the blogging about beer when you start brewing. However, it is definitely opening up my appreciation of beer more than anything else I’ve ever done.