I grew up in Hawaii where beer meant mass-produced light beers.
While attending college in Southern California, I became friends with Jonathan Witczak who is a long-time beer-brewer and NACM certified cider-brewer. During a winter break, we took a road trip to his hometown in Portland, OR and I got the opportunity to visit many of the breweries and brewpubs in the area. That’s where I discovered the joy of drinking a hearty ale in cold weather.
A particularly memorable moment was during a brewery tour where I was invited to taste a fresh hop flower. (It was an intense experience that I recommend everyone try at least once.) From that point on the flavor and bitterness of hops would always be stamped into my memory.
Like most guys, I often thought about home-brewing some day, but the initial cost of equipment and apparent complexity of brewing always prevented me from taking the leap. Why would I put so much effort into brewing beer when there were so many beers to choose from at the store?
But a funny thing happened. After learning more about beer, I realized that although my favorite store-bought beers were satisfactory…there was room for improvement and tailoring to my individual tastes. My buddy Jonathan gave me that final push and got me set-up doing all-grain brewing right from the start back in 2007. Our “Bathtub Brewing Company” started out making brown, blonde, and maibock ales out of the kitchen in my condo.
Although brown ales will always have a place for me, my taste in beer has changed over time. The IPA, Imperial Stout, and Barleywine styles that once seemed exotic are pleasing to me now. I believe that there’s a beer for every mood and even though I have my preferences, I continue to learn about new styles.
In the beginning, brewing was hectic and messy. (I give my patient and understanding wife a lot of credit for bearing with me.) Things didn’t always go as planned, but it did occasionally force me to do some unconventional thinking. Last minute business trip cause you to neglect your beer and over-ferment? Do some ice-distillation, salvage the alcohol, and blend with a future batch. Discover that you’re out of priming sugar on bottling day and the brewing supply store is closed? Try bottling with honey!
I continue to make beer for myself and friends to enjoy. I end up learning a lot from each batch of beer I make as there are almost always slight variances that get introduced either purposefully or through necessity. I still like to tweak things when I discover a cool new gadget, technique or just want to experiment with new ingredients or a new style. I proudly consider myself a beer-geek and blame it on my boundless curiosity.
Brewing is still magical and amazing to me. To think that there’s a living organism that with a little bit of care will produce a glorious beverage for you! No matter how much I learn about brewing, I hope to never lose that initial perspective and sense of wonderment.
To me, brewing is a combination of science and art. It’s part micro-biology and part cooking. It’s a balance of control and self-expression. It’s where being obsessed with sanitation gives way to culinary flair.
Share a pint with me sometime. Let’s talk about beer.