|be at home | December 2013
Can do home brew!
by Ginger Johnson
With well over a million Americans currently home brewing beer, it's a popular and delicious past time. And when you consider brewing beer is cooking, it's a pretty basic concept to get your mind around.
Fermenting beverages is as old as humankind. Once we started staying put for long enough periods, fermenting and boiling liquids for safe drinking became commonplace. These exilers of flavor have helped us celebrate, mourn, and build community all over the globe for ages. "It's just fun," says Susan Ruud of Harwood, North Dakota, long time enthusiastic home brewer and recognized beer judge. She encourages everyone to consider home brewing. As a mead maker first, Susan got interested in making beer by talking with co-workers before meetings. Other people in the home brew club in her area had also made mead and voila! It wasn't long until she started making the universal beverage we call beer as well.
The flavors you can create in beer making are as diverse as the people making them. Starting with the basic four necessary beer ingredients of water, grains, hops and yeast, one can easily get carried away with myriad additions to the beer recipe. Herbs of all kinds, plants, fruits, meats (yes, oysters even!) and various sugars are only a few of the possibilities to mix and match when developing beer recipes. Zymurgy magazine, published by the American Homebrewers Association, is a great resource as it includes clone recipe for beer makers, insights, productive conversation columns and direct input from homebrewers far and wide. Chances are good that if you like a particular beer style, you'll find a recipe to follow as they also include clone recipes of popular favorites.
While Learn to Homebrew Day (November 2nd) has recently passed, everyone can anticipate the 2nd major home brew holiday of the year: Big Brew Day, always the 1st Saturday of May. Gary Glass, the American Homebrewing Associations Director, shares that it's the single most popular event of the year. "It ties into the camaraderie of amateur brewers all over the world," states Glass. "And we've had participation on every continent except Antarctica!"
One of the most important factors Glass points out that it's easier than ever to get into home brewing. Many people I speak with who are knowledgeable in homebrewing say that ready-to-go kits are a delicious way to start. Everything is included, instructions are clear, and it's easy to succeed. The high quality and ready availability of supplies, resources, and people brewing is greater than ever before.
Homebrewing was outlawed as part of the Volstead Act in 1919, commonly known as Prohibition. And while the amendment was repealed in 1933, the omission of two little words ("and beer") made home brewing illegal. We have President Jimmy Carter to thank for changing the law, which became effective February 1979 to allow legal homebrewing. All 50 United States now allow homebrewing, with Mississippi and Alabama the last ones to pass legislation this year that makes this tasty pastime legal.
Suffice it to say that homebrewing is a really fun and engaging community to tap into. Without exception, the homebrewers I've met over the years are excited to share their experiences, knowledge and beers with anyone else who is interested. There are homebrewers all around us helping make our neighborhoods and towns come alive with their passion. I'd add that it's always matched by their responsibility and gravity of the landscape.
You don't have to brew yet or even plan to do so to enjoy the incredibly welcoming homebrewing community out there. Like Rudd says, "It's a cool thing to do and I'm amazed at how many people are trying it."
With the pending gift giving holidays, it's also the perfect time to get that beer enthusiast in your life a home brew kit. So what are you waiting for?! Now's the time to get out there, find a club to visit and meet some great people from all walks of life - all coming together over beer.
Till the next glass - cheers!
Ginger Johnson can often be found grocery shopping, prepping and cooking wherever she may be. As a professional entertainer, speaker and business owner, she loves to meet new people in the various pursuits of life. Read more via gingerjohnson.com and womenenjoyingbeer.com.