Hey, my name is Brian, and no, I’m not actually a monk. I do, however, brew my own beer, an endeavor that makes me part of a tradition that that began at the dawn of civilization and has wended it’s way through the majority of human history. Humans do like their beer. But right now you’re probably asking yourself, “Self, what does this guy dressing up in robes and making beer have to do with local foods and why should I care?” A valid question.
If you were to come and visit my brewery (i.e. garage) on a brew day, you wouldn’t think the Haakon Brewers (i.e. myself and my friends) had very much to do with eating locally at all. We use mostly barley malt extract as the base for our beer and we’d be unable to tell you where that barley was grown. The historically accurate hops we use grow only in Europe and the Pacific North West, a bit far from Virginia. It’s obviously not ingredients that link home brewing with eating locally. What ties the two together is somewhat more complex: philosophy.
What local foods and home brewing have in common is the desire to be connected to what you’re eating (or in this case drinking). We live in a world where it is easy to be disconnected from our food and drink, unthinkingly slurping down Spaghetti O’s and Bud Light. However, as anyone who has had fresh local meat and produce knows, there’s more to eat than what comes in a can. The same is true for beer, and thankfully, the micro-brew revolution of recent decades has helped expand the options bottled at your local market and on tap at your favorite watering hole. Taking that a step further, just as there is a great joy in taking fresh, local ingredients and preparing a delicious meal for you and your friends, there is joy in brewing your own beer.
Why should you consider home brewing? There are four main reasons:
Connection to what you Consume: Go to your fridge and pull out a bottle of beer and look at it, read the label. You’ve probably noticed that there is no list of ingredients. How do you know what’s in there? Now I’m not suggesting that there’s anything sinister afoot, but wouldn’t it be nice to know what you’re drinking? When you brew your own beer you know exactly what you’re putting in and have total control over production. This lets you make a beer that is uniquely yours and enables you to know exactly what you’re drinking.
A Grand Tradition: As I mentioned above, beer goes back to the dawn of civilization. The oldest surviving recipe comes from ancient Egypt. By brewing beer you’re taking part in an activity woven into the very fabric of civilization and are connected in some small way to the thousands of people who’ve gone before you.
Beer without Compromise: Perfection is in the eye of the beholder. One person’s perfect beer is another person’s complete swill. This can make it very hard if not impossible to find your ideal beer commercially produced. When I buy beer I often feel like I have to compromise between different aspects of flavor, but by brewing my own I can tweak the flavors to my personal taste and make a beer that is exactly what I want.
It’s Fun: Last but certainly not least, home brewing is a very enjoyable hobby. You get to enjoy both the process and the fruits of your labor.
I’ve been asked to write a series of posts for Eat. Grow. Live. about beer and home brewing, so stay tuned for the next few weeks to read articles on:
2. A brief history of beer.
3. Home Brewing Basics
4. Advanced Home Brewing
5. Bringing it Full-Circle: What Home Brewing Can Teach Us
Until next time, remember…
life’s too short to drink bad beer.