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Craft beer: a hobby?

I have noticed that at the end of a few of my beer reviews I have noted how “this beer is a good one for people new to the hobby.” The question comes, is drinking beer a hobby? I would assume that some people would consider it a social problem or a moral problem, but I always just thought of it as a hobby. I’ve never really been hung up on the “is drinking wrong?” question (obviously) but is it wrong to think of something that some people despise of as a hobby?

I am not one of those people or drinks to get drunk. I drink craft beer because I enjoy the flavor and the variety. I am sure there is some aspect of knowing something that others don’t in there as well, but that is not one of the reasons I drink. I like to expose myself to new beers and becoming knowledgeable in a growing “field” is always a good thing. I just don’t know if I should consider it a hobby.

Do people who eat good foods think of eating a hobby? Wikipedia has this as their defination as a hobby:

A hobby is an activity or interest that is undertaken for pleasure or relaxation, often in one’s spare time

Under that meaning, beer drinking is certainly a hobby. I enjoy it, I am interested in it, I take pleasure in it, and I do it in my spare time, Sounds good to  me. My wife and I have had this discussion before and I think (hope) we agree that it is a hobby. When you think of a hobby though it is generally more of an activity, not a bodily function. Like homebrewing, that falls under the traditional hobby. What do you think, is beer drinking a hobby or just a bad habit?

Importance of commerical beer to the homebrewer

My partner in brewing crime, Pete, made it down earlier this week to visit for a few days. Pete is an avid homebrewer and not only got me hooked on homebrewing, but also craft beer. As he is currently living in Fort Collins, Co, I think you can see that he is surrounded by some good beer people.

Within an hour of Pete arriving, we headed down to the beer store to stock up for the few days he was around for. We got all kinds of good stuff that will show up on the reviews here soon. Pete and I got to talking about how he homebrews so much (I believe he has 10+ cases of homebrew in his closet right now) that he hasn’t bought any new commercial beers in quite some time. His job requires that he is away from home for 3 weeks and then back at home for three. It is an ideal schedule for brewing. He brews furiously for three weeks, leaves, comes home, bottles what he made, and drinks the stuff from the last go around. Repeat.

Anyway, we were talking about how he doesn’t really try anything new, just beers from the Fort Collins breweries and his homebrew. While there is an impressive selection of great beer offered by the four or so breweries in Fort Collins, he is still only having beers from four breweries. He said how nice it was to have some other commercial brews to widen his taste buds and also to get a good sample of what a production beer of a certain style should taste like.

I fully agree with him. As a homebrewer I love drinking and making my own beers, but I am always searching for new beers to try. Part of it is because I love drinking new beers. But more than that, I think it is the fact that I want to have a solid palate and know what goes into a certain style of beer. I also like seeing a twist of a style and getting to experience something that I would never brew myself.

Need to homebrew

I haven’t done any homebrewing in a few months. It may actaully be the the longest stretch I have ever going without brewing since I started. I miss it. I want to do it. I need to decide on a beer to brew. The last time I brewed was the weekend after Thanksgiving where I did a take on a Rouge’s Dead Guy Ale. My buddy Pete came down from Colorado to help in the brewing. That beer finally got bottled yesterday so now I have open fermenters, open space, and a bit of open time to brew.

I have narrowed down my choices to be either an amber, pale ale, or I was also thinking a pilsner. As strange as all of those may sound together, those are the styles of beer that I have been digging recently. I was thinking about an English ale, as I have been on an English ale kick for the past few weeks, but decided against it as I am getting burnt out.

For my next batch(s) I am also not going to be brewing the standard 5 gallon batch, rather I am going to half it and brew more often. I generally don’t like to brew until I am almost out of my previous brew. The simple reasons for that are time and the lack of bottles. While I do have a nice set of new cases from bottling yesterday, I suspect that is going to be gone by the time my next brew is ready to go. I am also going to be a lone wolf (the Hangover anyone?) at the end of next month as my wife and my friends will be going tornado chasing for six weeks. Yeah. Sadly I do not get to join in that experiment as I am not a PhD or Masters student in the Texas Tech Atmospheric Science or Wind Engineering departments. So I need to cut it back on the homebrew so I don’t have cases upon case just sitting around my dog and I. I’ll get an update on what I decide when I decide it and as always I’ll post my recipe and brewing plan. Any other ideas on what I should brew.

My homebrew, a year in review

I didn’t do as much homebrewing as I would of liked to do this year. In total I did40 gallons worth of homebrew. That’s eight five gallon batches. Below is a list of the beers that I brewed up this year.

  • Imperial Porter
  • SB Birthday Beer (Amber wheat)
  • Irish Red
  • Belgian Dubbel
  • Belgian Tripel
  • Pumpkin Ale
  • Winter Warmer
  • Amber IPA

Some of those beers turned out better than others. I have to say that my darker beers are my better ones. That is probably I enjoy roasty flavors and it is easier to hide other flavors with them. My Irish Red and SB Birthday beer did not come out very well at all. The Irish Red was a victim of improper hopping. I switched the hops and the bittering component came out way to strong and dry. The SB Birthday beer was the victim of sitting in a fermenter for too long and also was in the sun for a bit of it. They were both drinkable, but not up to a decent standard.

My Belgian beer experiments went pretty good. The Dubbel needed a few more darker malts and I would change the yeast in it to something that would give off a bit more plum and dry fruit esters. Overall it tasted  fine, it just needed to be a bit richer tasting. The Tripel was darn good. The malts and the yeast worked perfectly. It was well balanced and a good representation of a Tripel. There were a few too many hot alcohols in it which was caused by a higher than wanted fermentation temperature.

The Pumpkin Ale was a complete disaster. The stuck sparge  left a ton of extra sugars and I didn’t think it out with extra water. With a lower than normal wort level and a high sugar level the beer ended up being 15% and too highly spiced. I can see it being a really good beer, it just needed to be brewed correctly. It is still drinkable, but edges on not being so.

My Winter Warmer is still bottle conditioning but it tastes wonderful. It is a bit more bitter than I wanted and next time I would take out some more Black Patent malt, as it gives off a ton of flavor. I called the beer a Winter Warmer, but in reality it is a stout. I left the option open to put spices in it, but I did not want to since the beer before it, the pumpkin ale, had more spice than I knew what to do it. All you need to do to make it a true Winter Warmer is add in a few spices and bam, you have it.

The Amber IPA is getting bottled this week, so we will see how that turns out. My real all star for this brew year was the Imperial Porter. It came in a 8% and had everything you could want in a porter. It was well balanced and you could not even detect an alcohol on the beer. I really like it, I wish I had more.

This next brew year I’m not sure what I want to make. I think next on my list is a simple American Amber. After that I have not idea. I am still looking into the colonial beer, but that is a ways off. We will see what this year brings, but I am excited as I am really honing in on my efficiency and turning out beer very close to what I want them to taste like.

Colonial America beer

11-17-01I’ve been trying to come up with my next recipe for homebrewing and I can’t really decide on what I want to do exactly. I keep going between a porter, a winter warmer, or some type of amber ale. I really just can’t decide at all. And then I got an idea; how about a Colonial
America style of beer?

I thought it sounded like a great idea so I have been doing a lot of research into beer styles and brewing techniques during the Colonial time in America. I have run across several helpful articles and have really started to dive into them. I am still working on a solid recipe but I thought that I would share my current ideas and information and see if anyone can point me in a more correct direction.

Right now I am looking at three “styles” of Colonial beer. The first would be a basic porter, not super strong, but packed with roasty flavors and medium carbonation. The second style I am looking at is more of a British style pub ale that Thomas Jefferson is said to have enjoyed. Who knows if that is true, but it makes a good story. In place of all of the British malts and hops I would substitute American malts and hops. The final beer that I am looking into is a Spruce beer that was common during the Revolutionary War. It would be a darker beer, similar to a porter, but also have some essence of spruce put into it. Now I just need to narrow down my focus a bit.

I also am concerned with doing this beer authentically. I will have to use some modern brewing practices, but I would like to get the ingredients as close as possible. I know that hops change from year to year, and there is no way to actually know what the barley was malted at during that period but digging into some more material, I hope to find some more clues.  Below are a few links that I have been looking over the gain a better understanding of Colonial brewing in America.

Links

As I said, I have a lot more research to do, but these links are a start. I have a few books that I can get more information out of, but I will have to dig in and find the correct information. If you find any other info out there I am more than willing to take it.