Friday, February 1, 2013
As I watch the fog roll off the ice I am amazed that it is mid January in New England; it feels like an early spring day. As dusk falls upon me it is still around 55 degrees outside. The barrel aged stout I'm drinking seems a bit out of place. By 8PM, I'm cleaning my brewing equipment still just wearing a t-shirt. It was a great day to brew... In a few months when this beer I brewed is ready to drink, I'll remember this day. I'll remember the grains in my hands, I'll remember smelling the mash, I'll remember every hop addition, and I'll remember tasting the wort. That sweet and bitter wort that will gradually transform into a wonderful elixir. It will mature into something tangible, something that can be shared, and something that can be enjoyed by many. The art of brewing I do for me. The fact that I get to share the fruits with others is just a wonderful bonus.
When I drink a beer I savor it; I want all my senses to experience it. I like to try and imagine what was the brewer thinking when he brewed this beer. What was he feeling? Was he just punching a time clock? Going through the motions? Or was he truly inspired? Was he reaching inward to create the best beer that he could? Is he able to flourish in a favorable environment to perfect his craft? Or is he brewing in an environment where the Marketing Department dictates what he should brew? Is it all about the money, or is it all about the beer?
For me it's all about the beer. It has always been, all about the beer. I have been homebrewing for over 20 years now; I have been enjoying Craft Beer for much longer. No matter what else I'm doing in my life, great beer has always been there. There have been many changes in the Beer World over those 20 plus years. Up and downs, trends and fads. I've seen small, local breweries grow into major players in the Beer Industry. I've watched homebrewers become Titans. I've also seen it go horribly wrong. Breweries and Brewpubs sprouting up everywhere only because it's a growing market. I've watched Giants of The Beer Industry try to retain their market share, to no avail. I've seen them all jump on the - insert the flavor of the month here - bandwagon. It never works... well, it sometimes works in the short term, but rarely has staying power. Why? That's easy: because they try and put the money first, the beer second... or even third. Because somewhere a Marketing Department is telling a brewer that he must brew a Double Rye IPA infused with lemon and aged in a bourbon barrel. They have done the Market Research, and the Graphics Department have already made the labels... so, hurry up and brew it! Clueless, ridiculous, and very insulting to beer lovers everywhere.
The good news for us beer lovers is that Craft Beer is exploding right now. There is an astonishing amount of great beer to choose from. Creative, delicious beers from all around the country. Small, local breweries supplying beer for their neighborhood. Regional beers, state only beers, beers that you can only get at the brewery where it's brewed. It is truly a great time for us beer geeks. At no other time has it been easier for us to enjoy great beers than now. So the next time you're reaching for that 6-pack of the usual, stop and break the habit. Spend a few minutes to find out where your beer comes from. Find out who's making your beer. And are they making beer for the love of money, or for the love of beer?