What Will You Come Up With Under the Influence? Beer and the Do-It-Yourself Revolution
I’ve just finished reading this article (catching up on beer reading, it’s been a busy few months!) written by an assistant research professor Arizona State University. The author has a very poignant point of view about the homebrewing hobby, beer experimentation, and the craft beer explosion in general:
The oldest persisting food purity law in the world is the German Rheinheitsgebot… While this law ensured the quality, tradition, and purity of beer in Germany, it also stifled experimentation and innovation by prohibiting brewers from testing other ingredients. The Belgian monks, by contrast, were free to develop complex and innovative beer styles during the last few centuries by adding fruits, spices, wild yeast and bacteria, and other cereal grains, like wheat, to their ales. This experimental spirit has been embraced by today’s do-it-yourself home brewers and craft brewers in the United States, which is currently regarded as the most innovative and exciting country for craft beer.
“Beer goggles” are considered a terrible thing, especially on college campuses. But I believe beer is the perfect lens through which to examine innovation…
I’ve seen a few awesome innovations in my homebrewing experience. Professionally-produced equipment like the Yeast Brink from White Labs, which is a scaled-down version of a macrobrewery yeast repitching device, is made out of a recycled keg. Amateur-produced equipment holds no boundaries for creativity, and handy brewers and amateur engineers always seem extremely excited to share their plans and ideas. Devices and doohickeys can range all the way from a cold-press carafe system to fresh hop single pints of beer, to entire new ideas about mash-tuns and jockey boxes. Hell, one man from Canada built an entire electrically-automated brewery from scratch, documented the whole thing on the internet, and made an instructions booklet on how to assemble your own! I’ve actually seen one of these, and brewed on one of these with the club, and it’s ridiculous.
Not only devices, but ingredients are also a source of experimentation. The whole concept of homebrewing is to brew what you want, when you want it, because you drink what you like. Because of the small batch size, experimenting with new, crazy, zany ingredients (that may be a little expensive for larger batches) is possible. Tuning a recipe with some nutty ingredient like cattail reeds or popcorn (the popcorn beer is real, I swear: Popcorn Pilsner, Sun King Brewery) is more affordable and better served on a homebrew scale. You can brew something special for a special someone, you can put a tap on your wall in your man-cave, and you can grow your own ingredients and make the beer 100% your own. The very spirit of homebrewing and zymurgy is experimentation. Homebrewing is a giant research laboratory, where everyone does their own experiments and gets paid in beer: tasty, unique, fantastic beer.
It only serves that there’s an entire multiverse of beer innovation that’s yet to be tapped, and homebrewers will continue to play a huge part in this craft beer explosion. If it’s all I can do, I will teach others how to brew and appreciate beer. Maybe my basic instruction on partial extract brewing will push someone’s mind to the creative brink and revolutionize homebrewing, if not the beer industry, forever… but we won’t know unless we sit down and enjoy the craft with others.