Sustaining the Momentum. I found myself contemplating this issue’s theme one snowy February day in Moody Ales’ taproom. I got to thinking: I’ve been a home brewer for twenty years. Many people try it and give up far sooner. How have I done it this long, and how I can sustain my momentum for the next twenty years?
I first thought about some of the styles that have appeared in the past few years. Hazy New England ales and Brut IPA came to mind immediately. I thought about some of the ‘gimmicks” like glitter beer, or beers with breakfast cereal and the likes. These types of things are keeping the industry interesting, keeping consumers engaged, and sustaining the momentum in the craft industry.
My reasons for brewing at home have evolved since I started doing it twenty years ago, and so has the equipment I use.
One thing that seems to keep me in the home brew game is upgrading occasionally. Not just for the sake of having newer or nicer equipment, but to make the brew day easier and shorter in ways like these:
As I’ve aged, I’ve noticed the after-effects of carrying a five-gallon glass carboy full of wort. My back complains for a couple of days afterwards. Solution? PET (polyethylene terephthalate, i.e. plastic) carboys. My seven-gallon PET wide-mouth Fermonster is easier to carry, not nearly as dangerous as glass, and easy to clean. Perfect.
I used to use gravity and manual methods to move liquids during the brewing process. Then I bought a pump, some silicone hose, and some cam-lock fittings. Now I can sit on the couch for twenty minutes while the the recirculation sets the grain bed in the mash tun and clarifies the wort instead of moving pitchers of wort by hand.
I eliminated airlocks with brittle parts in favour of breathable silicone carboy bungs. Much easier to clean and sanitize, more durable, and virtually maintenance-free. No need to worry about the airlock drying out or fruit flies getting inside.
A few years ago, I moved to a cylindrical beverage cooler with a false bottom for my mash tun. It holds heat better than a rectangular cooler and the conversion is super easy with a proper false bottom and a valve.
Spending six to eight hours to make beer can feel like a challenge at the end of a busy work week. I keep up my interest and excitement by branching out and brewing styles that aren’t necessarily my first choice. In 2018, I really enjoyed Strange Fellows Brewing’s Strange Resemblance. I haven’t been a big fan of saisons in the past, but this beer got me excited to try brewing them again. Experimenting with some different saison yeasts was fun and educational.
Sustaining momentum can also be achieved by working with new ingredients or techniques. 2018 saw the rise of Brut IPA. I went and found some amalyse enzyme and gave it a shot. I have never seen a finishing gravity that low before. That was cool. Another trick for the tool box.
I occasionally see people selling their home brew gear online and I wonder what happened to make them give it up. Was it just a fad type of hobby that sounded like fun but was just too much work? Maybe they never figured it out and got tired of pouring out batches full of off flavours.
My original reasons for homebrewing are no longer driving factors, yet I continue to do it. Is isn’t just to save money. It isn’t just for competition, since I‘ve won enough homebrewing awards. At the end of the day I keep brewing because the person who knows my palate best, and who is capable of making the perfect beer for me, is me. That is what keeps me going: making the best (fill in the blank) I can to suit my palate. I have made a few beers that hit the mark. But there are so many styles, I have lots more work to do.
Now go brew some beer!