Why I Brew

Many people ask me why I brew. Particularly those who taste my wares ("Why don't you take up coin collecting or something like that where you can't poison people?").

I am like you: an average guy who works 9-to-5 in order to pay the bills, but who dreams of doing more with my life. Every day when I leave my place of employment after spending eight hours going through the motions, I feel as though I've just been paroled from prison. Half of my waking hours have just been exchanged for money; the rest of the day is my time, and I need to spend it on something creative, worthwhile and fun. In fact, creativity is what separates us from the animals. Well, that and ESPN.

Brewing entails considerable work, especially when I do 6-hour all-grain batches and 2-hour bottling sessions every other week. To the unenlightened (i.e. the masses who let talking frogs and lizards determine what they drink), spending half a day just to make a few cases of beer might seem wasteful. If all that effort went into making nothing more than ballpark suds, I doubt I would bother. The fact is that the end product is worth the boilovers and the nagging I get from my wife ("You never spend any time with me!" "That stuff is stinking up the house!" "Why don't you brew something I like?")

The good taste of the finished product in and of itself is not enough to get me to blow a Saturday messing up my wife's kitchen. If better or even comparable beers were always available I could save a lot of time by dropping $20 or $30 at my local liquor store each month for a case of quaffables. Unfortunately some good beers are seasonal, and others don't even get distributed to my local retailer. I could go to a bar and order a nice pint of witbier or IPA, but it is not always feasible to do so. First of all, many places only offer a handful of selections. Second, I have kids to supervise, so I don't have time for a visit to the pub. Finally, hanging out in a bar breathing in second-hand smoke and hearing strangers talk is not the kind of ambience I want. Imbibing at home allows me to relax and listen to my Starland Vocal Band album while enjoying my liquid refreshment.

A great thing about brewing is that I can share the results with others. All of my beer-drinking friends rave about my beer. If they know that my beer will be available on a given evening, they won't even consider buying any commercial beer. From this I have learned two things about my friends: 1) they have good taste; and 2) they are cheap.

Brewing is a great hobby for people like me who can't cook. Every time I set out to create something to feed my family, we end up at a restaurant. Maybe it's because I use the smoke detector as a timer; maybe my Apple-Tuna Casserole isn't as good as I like to think it is. Brewing gives me a way to cook something that people can actually ingest without having to dial 911.

Another great thing about this hobby is homebrew clubs. I am a member of several clubs, and each meeting involves sharing my stock with other like-minded folks, getting feedback and tips, discussing beer topics and events, and enjoying camaraderie with people who I never would have met otherwise.

I get a great feeling from producing brews that bring people enjoyment. My psychiatrist and my parole officer both agree that I need this self-esteem boost.

Most of all, brewing is my passion. I awaken on the weekend at cow-milking hours to start a batch because I am too excited to wait for the sun to come up. The intellectual and creative satisfaction I get from mashing, sparging, boiling, chilling and adding yeast keeps me wanting to do it as often as possible. I also keep meticulous logs of every batch and this enables me to learn which yeasts, hops, grains, mash temps, fermentation temps and gravities make the best brews. Okay, so I occasionally make a batch that tastes like alcoholic pondwater, but overall the results are very good.

So this is why I brew. Call it a silly pastime, an obsession, or what have you, but it is a big part of my life and it is one of the simple pleasures that make my life worth living. In this turbulent world where news headlines constantly bring me down with stories about terrorism, poverty, disease and Trent Lott, it's nice to have a wholesome activity that brings me so much comfort and enjoyment.