On a Philosophy of Homebrewing March 16, 2016 13:32
A blog. This is a thing we have not kept up with for some time. We are going to make a better effort to keep up with weekly posts: sometimes they will be a featured tool in the homebrewer’s arsenal, sometimes a discussion of a method used to make beer, and sometimes they will just be goofy side stories. These posts will even feature guests from outside Central Street Farmhouse – if we are lucky. We hope they are generally helpful.
Let’s start with a brief note on where we all started. The question is simple enough. Why homebrew? My answer often surprises people since there really is no tangible reason to homebrew. Homebrewing began as a hobby that filled voids in the beer market. After Prohibition, the variety of American beer basically vanished, and imports were difficult to come by. The best alternative for those who wanted more than the ubiquitous light lager was to make it themselves. And they did this in spite of limited access to ingredients and a prohibition on homebrewing that lasted until the late 1970s. You may have noticed that variety – the proverbial spice of life – is no longer in short supply. If anything, there is excessive choice. As an added bonus, you can get everything everywhere.
With that variety in mind, we return to the question: Why brew your own beer? It’s a lot of work; it sometimes feels like an uphill battle. So why do it? To borrow from George Mallory – Because it’s there. Homebrewing is not a step to something larger or greater, it is a challenge in and of itself. Homebrewing is the original “craft” in “craft brewing.” The growth of the craft beer industry has resulted in a change in homebrewing culture. Even in a state like Maine, where people pride themselves on a DIY ethic, homebrewing has seen a decline. (Don’t take this as a homebrewing store complaining about dwindling sales – that is not the case and we are doing better than fine.) In a culture of mass production, individual crafts have lost some significance. But while these activities may see fewer practitioners, they are equally satisfying in an inverse proportion.
So, why homebrew? There need not be an end game, a dream, or a career change in the future. No beer you can buy at a bar or in a store will ever be as delicious and refreshing as one you make for yourself. Nothing you buy will ever fulfill you the same way as something you make. The couch I built ten years ago is still – despite its many and obvious shortcomings – more comfortable than the one I bought several years later.
And you know what else? Your idiot friends like free beer. I know mine do.