Why Homebrew is Better

Every professional performer always does the same thing at exactly the same moment in every show they do. What I like are things that are different every time. That's why I like amateurs.

— Andy Warhol

What Andy Warhol said about professionals vs. amateurs is true not just in theatre, but in lots of DIY pursuits such as brewing your own beer. Homebrew is better because each time it's different.

The beer that you buy is made by pros with the goal of replicating the same recipe each time; the same ingredients, the same process, the same consistent result. If you make your own beer, you can forget the same-old, same-old. In fact, it's rather hard to brew the same exact thing each time following home-made processes. As an amateur, you get to enjoy these small but noticeable differences. Homebrew has its own design goals, mainly exploring lots of variations that allow you to see how different beers can be. For instance, we've used fresh hops that I've grown when they're in season; we can dry the hops for use later in the year. We'll also buy hops from the brewing supply store.

I've got a setup for all-grain brewing at home and it takes about six hours to get a batch ready for fermentation. In the photo below, you can see the underlying IPA recipe and my notes outlining the steps. The notes help me structure the process and remember to do everything I need to do. I also use the notes to record times and other measurements.


The photo at right is next-to-last step, siphoning the cooled-down brew into a 7-gallon glass carboy. We'll add yeast and the fermentation will start. It takes several days for the sugars to be converted into alcohol. I like to check on the batch and see this vigorous activity up-close.

Brewing is fun to do with a group of people. The brew room, like a workshop, becomes a hangout and you get to talking while you're doing something. My daughter's fiance, Ryan, is learning to brew along with me. Ryan understands much more of the science behind brewing. We made a tasty Pumpkin Ale for Thanksgiving. Yesterday, we started a batch of light-colored German-style beer, which we'll eventually bottle for holiday presents.

More serious home-brewers try to perfect a recipe and repeat it each time, especially those who enter competitions. But not everyone needs to have that goal. To cite a phrase made popular by Perl programmers, there's more than one way to do it. That's what makes homebrew so interesting.