Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Why I brew & How I Got Started

How you started brewing and why you started brewing is a common topic one among homebrewers and on homebrewing boards. I was just asked this question the other day, thus this post...

My homebrewing career began young - probably before the age of ten - as our annual Christmas trip to my grandparents inevitably involved me assisting my grandfather in the preparation of schnapps (not the crap they sell here; the real German thing - i.e. fruit brandies), as well as helping pour off frozen applejack. Neither of those were particularly legal, but the below -30C temperatures of the Saskatchewan winter (plus a young and willing assistant) made the Christmas season the perfect time for my grandfather to finish his nefarious beverages.

In my early teens my grandparents moved into an apartment, and thus ended my early brewing career. I picked it up again a few months after my 18th birthday (legal age in Alberta, and that's all I'll admit too). These early beers had one goal, and one goal only - get me and my university pals as drunk as possible for as cheap as possible. To call these beers "beer" is to insult all beers everywhere (except, maybe, bud light). Basically, an old-school cooper beer kit went into double the water it was supposed to, along with a bunch of table and corn sugar. My first brew notes on my first batch were "tastes like crap, drunk in 2 beers".

You may wonder how we made due with such nasty stuff - the secret is simple. We started with the "good stuff" - AKA Molson Canadian (those were dark days) - and once our palates were destroyed, we moved onto to the homebrew. About 2 years in I learned of all-grain brewing, which I interpreted as a way of saving yet more money. For the first time in 2 years I added just hops, malt and yeast to a beer - and made a good batch of beer. As in one that actually tasted like beer and didn't require pre-drinking to tolerate. That batch (dutifully noted in my brew log as "holy shit!!!!!") led me to change tracks, and I went from "as much as possible for as cheap as possible" to "as good as I can make it".

By that time I was serious about perusing a science career, and my burgeoning interest in biology led to to really expand my beer horizons - within three years of starting brewing I went from making swill, to all graining, to sour and wild beers AND evolving my own "custom" yeasts. As I moved into a PhD program my sour/wild brewing was curtailed, but I continued with the all-grain brewing. During my post-doc years I all but stopped brewing - 2 people, 3 animals plus a 700 sq ft. apartment equals no brewing, but as soon as I took on my current faculty job, I returned to brewing. This blog covers all but the first 5 batches of beer I've made in my post-post-doc brewing period, and missing the first 5 isn't a bad thing - they were all kits...

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