Guest Post – Principles of Home Brewing

It has been some time since the last guest post. And with the Big Brew day happening in Portsmouth May 5, what better time than now for a guest post about home brewing?

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Jake Metzler is a home brewing fanatic who loves to write and share his knowledge with others. When he’s not brewing, you can probably find him rock climbing and/or listening to eighties metal.

A few years ago I started brewing my own beer, and it definitely changed my perception of a lot of things- first of all beer, but other things as well. I’m a pretty analytical person, and I realized that a lot of the processes in brewing are applicable to other areas in life. So here you have it, the principles of home brewing as I see them, and how they apply to life in general.

Learn from others

Philosopher John Locke had a theory, summed up in Latin as Tabula Rasa, or in English as “blank slate.” Basically he proposed that when we are born, our mind is completely blank; there are no pre-programmed thoughts or ideals. Those are put onto us by the people and events in our lives, and the environment we live in.
The first time I brewed, I didn’t know what I was doing. I had a great home brewing kit that provided me with all the ingredients I needed and walked me through the process, but my slate was still pretty blank.

Luckily, there is this awesome resource called the internet. I did a quick “home brewing tip” search. A lot of the information was vague, but it did help me become familiar with certain terms. It also made me give up any plans of taking shortcuts, as that was where other people’s problem had started.
When you’re trying something new, you probably don’t know a whole lot about it. Utilize the assistance of others who have gone before you. Ask for advice; ask for help even. If you have a buddy who brews, he’ll probably be more than willing to help you out in exchange for a six-pack.

Prepare

When I’m trying a new recipe, whether it be for food or drink, I stick with the written instruction exactly. This way if I don’t like something, I know it was the recipe, and not something I did. When I make the item again, I’ll tweak it to my preferences.

My first brewing experience was supposed to be well-planned and timed perfectly. I started the process almost immediately after work so that I could still get to bed at a decent hour. Of course, the best laid plans….
Things were going well until I needed to cool the brew. It was taking longer than the instructions said it would. Maybe I didn’t have enough ice surrounding my container. Maybe my water wasn’t cold enough. Maybe I was too aware of every minute passing, so that a half hour seemed like an eternity.

Then I realized I didn’t have my tubing ready. And my carboy wasn’t sanitized. And suddenly my beer being cool didn’t matter because I was completely unprepared.
We all experience this in life; it’s a lesson we ignore all too often. When we plan ahead, things go much more smoothly. Nowadays I have a checklist of tasks that need to be done before I start the actual brewing process. This keeps me on track and makes the whole experience much less stressful.

Keep it Clean

Sometimes making a mess can be fun. With brewing though, there is a large risk of contamination. This means that sanitization is extremely important. Just as you wash your hands after touching raw meat, wash your hands and equipment before and after each step of the brewing process. This way you can avoid bacteria growing along with your yeast.

In life, it’s always good to approach things with a “best practices” approach. Making your bed in the mornings and washing dishes right after meals are good practices that promote forethought and discourage procrastination. All sanitation takes is conscious thought and effort and it results in a clean, safe brew. Putting the same toward life in general will reap great benefits.

Take Time for Appreciation

Of course the whole point of brewing is the end result. After waiting for fermentation to take place and then waiting for the beer to settle in the bottles, you finally get to pop open a bottle and enjoy the fruit of your labor.
There is some great research out there about how the way you eat and drink affects your experience of a product. Just like wine connoisseurs have a process for their tastings, having a sort of tasting ritual can enhance your drinking experience.

After opening your bottle, give the beer a moment to breathe. The air will change the taste of the brew. Smell your beer before drinking. Smell is a large percentage of taste, so fully embracing that will unify your senses and help you taste the beer more completely. When taking your first drink, don’t rush it. Enjoy. This not only improves your perception of the drink, but gives you a moment to center yourself. Incorporating this routine in all of your meals and drinks will make eating a peaceful, enjoyable experience.

Learn from Your Experiences

Sometimes your beer won’t be as awesome as you had hoped. Even if this is the case, going through the process of brewing a beer shows patience and persistence. You saw a project through and that is something to be proud of. Now it’s time to analyze what went wrong and try again. Maybe you just don’t like that specific recipe. Maybe you missed a part of the process.

Whatever the case, don’t let a misstep get you down. As with most things, practice makes perfect. So clean up all your equipment, put your chin-up, and get back to brewing!