2016 marks my 25th year of homebrewing. It is an odd admission mostly because it makes me admit that I am older, balder and fatter than I would like. But, still, I feel like it is an anniversary worth marking.
Homebrewing is what started it all for me. Back in 1991 I was a poor undergraduate who mostly appreciated the process of drinking beer more than the actual product that was in the glass. But I was poor, which meant I had to decide whether to drink less beer or find a cheaper way to procure it. A friend suggested homebrewing, noting that I could make a bottle of beer for around 20 cents.
He had me at 20 cents.
So, I picked up one of those rotten tins of concentrated wort that offered a pack of dry yeast in the lid. For those under the age of 40 you will have no idea what I am talking about, but back then they were ubiquitous. Their design was to offer a weak wort base to which you added a few cups of corn sugar and tossed in the dry yeast. The resulting beer was, to be frank, awful. But it was beer, and you brewed it yourself. Plus I had a couple cases of stubbies, so it made it more cool to pour my beer from those.
As pathetic as those early efforts were, it was enough for me to catch the bug. It wasn’t long before I moved to real extract brewing and, not long after that, all-grain. I quickly fell in love with the magical process of fermentation: making barley juice and watching yeast turn it into a beautiful elixir.
I read and read and read. Within a few years I had learned enough that I was actually producing good beer, despite a paucity of quality homebrew ingredients. In the late ’90s I joined the Edmonton Homebrewers’ Guild and my brewing jumped in quality thanks to the feedback, knowledge and fraternity of the Guild members. In 2003 I wrote the BJCP beer judge exam, which also strengthened my brewing chops.
I competed for awhile, winning my share of medals – I was known for a high entry-to-medal ratio – although a few years ago I retired from competition. I started doing beer writing and education in 2006 and haven’t looked back. Throughout I have never stopped homebrewing, making 8-10 batches a year (I usually make 23-litre batches even though my system can do up to 50 litres).
Homebrewing for me has been a retreat, a solace and a sanity-maker. No matter what is happening in my life, I know that a day spent brewing will put me in a better space. In fact when I go too long without brewing I get kind of squirrelly. For me it is a solitary project – I brew alone – because I just want the focus and the space.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, because for a while I have been thinking I want to brew a special commemorative beer to mark my 25 years of brewing. And I am having trouble deciding what to brew.
So, I am turning to the best community I can think of. Onbeer.org readers. Most of you know your beer. Many of you are homebrewers.
Tell me what you think I should brew. If you have a recipe, even better. You can do it in the comment section or if you don’t want to share your insights to the world email me directly at beerguy [at] telus.net.
I am serious. I want suggestions. I am not saying I will pick one and brew it (although I might). I am simply reaching out, saying I would like help deciding what would most appropriately honour the achievement of reaching a quarter century of brewing. I promise to report back on my decision and how the beer turns out.
I am very proud that I have brewed beer for 25 years (longer than any brewery operating in Alberta except Big Rock – isn’t that weird?). I think that deserves recognition. Even if it is only in my house.
How should I do it? I look forward to your ideas.