I was the ripe old age of 23 when I learned how to brew beer. I had just moved to New Mexico to start my first “real” job when I met my first office mate. Dave’s job was to train me and make help me transition from east coast life to southwest life.
We stayed late every night to show our new bosses that we were eager and hardworking engineers. Every evening at 5:30, Dave would take out two bottles of unlabeled beer and we’d drink it together. As we nursed the well deserved beer, he told me that he was rather proud of it. It won a silver medal in the New Mexico State Fair that year. I looked at the golden colored liquid in my hand and said, “you made this?” He nodded and we went back to work.
A few weeks later, Dave asked me if I wanted to brew up a batch of beer with him. He was running low and needed to replenish his stock. I jumped at the invitation and we set the time for the coming Saturday afternoon.
We spent that glorious afternoon mashing grains, boiling water, adding hops, and pitching yeast. It was a magical experience and I wanted to try it on my own too. I went home and started looking around for a local homebrew supply shop. I don’t remember where I got my first starter kit but I picked up a kit and some books on the subject. The home brewing market was just getting started back then so supplies were harder to come by then they are today.
I spent the next few years making mead, hard apple cider, beer, and even some bad wine. I have fond memories of those years but had to sell all my brewing gear when I moved back to New Jersey.
Life Got Busy
Life got busy, as it always does, and brewing became a “one day I’ll do again” wishlist item. Twenty years later I took the plunge again and ordered a beer brewing kit and a “How to Brew” book. In the late winter, I started brewing partial mash beer kits. I needed to get my feet wet and make process mistakes. I needed to “relearn” riding that proverbial biycle. Making mistakes are critical to the evolution of every budding home brewer.
A few batches later, I got the process mistakes out of my system and then started to experiment. I started keeping zealous notes of my brewdays, first on sheets of paper and now on this blog and Brewers Friend.
Now I do all grain batches after a slight equipment upgrade and I’m not looking back. There is so much to learn in brewing that goes beyond heating some water and throwing in some grains and hops. It’s part science and part art. Tiny variations in the process can produce big effects. Just affecting the mash temperature by a few degrees can give you maltier beer or a stronger beer. Magic happens at 150F, 153F, and 155F!
The best part of all this? You can start small and experiment. Try making different beers and styles and find the recipies you like and make them. Over and over again. Then one day you’ll find you’re only drinking your home brew and you couldn’t be happier.