My trip from avid homebrewer to pro-brewer
Brewing craft beer is an extension of who I am. I had dreamed as a child that I would be good at one thing, that the one thing was something I had not yet discovered. In these moments of imagining greatness, I would have a very euphoric experience, culminating in the tip of my nose tingling and triggering a sneeze. It was in these moments, however deluded, I was convinced I would find that one thing I was to be best at. In reality, we all learn a little along the way, and while some of us are excellent at honing a given craft, trade or skill, some of us need a much longer run-way for the greatness to be realized.
In my case, I began home brewing at the age of 21. That year, my father purchased a homebrew kit for my two brothers and me. I was the one to exhibit interest in the project; probably because of the lack of desire by my older brother to do much in the generation of something he perceived he could buy off the shelf, and my younger brother being less than drinking age, I was alone in the desire to brew beer. Surprisingly, the very first beer I brewed with that kit tasted fantastic (in my mind). I leveraged rec.crafts.brewing, a UseNet newsgroup, and figured out a lot of what I needed to know about how to do my first brew. After aging in a plastic bucket fermenter, we transferred a little boiled corn sugar to the mixture, stirred it up, and we bottled it up. While I swear that finished product was the best beer ever, hindsight being what it is, surely it was something I would not consume now, but at the time, after the anticipation, and knowledge it was my own product, it was fantastic. The taste of that first beer led me down a path of wanting to do more.
I have enjoyed brewing beer these past twenty-plus years, and know that there have been tidbits of knowledge gleaned from those around me who share in the hobby. I also enjoy reading about the experimentation side of the beer, so-much-so that I will follow some of the strictures lined out in some of the more advanced articles and make a determination of the efficacy of the proposed changes in methodology as I go. My current home system being proof of such a concept — I use an all-electric system at this time, lacking only in flow-control for my pumps from a truly fully-automated brew house.
I started out with a stove-top operation, graduating to propane and finally landing on electric after many years. The current system allows for the greatest control yet, leveraging PIDs to control temperature. I am also using a temperature controlled fermentation chamber, and reverse osmosis water, both of which lead to greater repeatability of process. In my mind, the greatest improvements the homebrewer will make are at the following stages: 1) sanitation, being able to ensure you are tasting just what was intended, instead of what may have hitched-a-ride is very important. 2) Fermentation temperature control, again one of those things that allow the brewer to control just what the yeast is doing in an effort to ensure you are achieving the flavor profile you want, instead of just what the yeast decides to give. 3) thermal control of the mash, being able to control the mash temperature, and hold the values you need to hold in order to achieve the various conversions is critical to ensure not only the proper utilization of the grain, but also to ensure you are controlling pH (and adjusting accordingly). 4) water profile, starting with a base water, like reverse osmosis, allows the brewer to deliver the beer with the best possible advantages for the characteristic the brewer is trying to deliver to the palate of the consumer. The water is probably the hardest thing to do consistently and correctly and is why it remains at the far-end of the items I see as required to be able to create repeatable beer — work through the other steps first, then tackle the water.
It seems all home brewers start out with a desire to either, or both, figure out how many IBUs they can cram into a beer or how much alcohol they can extract. Either way, it is an extreme measure that is rarely successful by the novice. Looking at prime examples of the extremes, one can tell that not many do it well. The extremes include light lagers, which Bud, Miller and Coors have mastered. Just consider their flawless quality, as any flaw is readily apparent in such a product, this fact alone should leave all in awe of the pure science behind their repeatability and flawless delivery of such a bland product. Taste buds and olfactory senses what they are, few craft beer lovers find the tasteless golden lager to be much in the way of enjoyment. Instead, we look to other, more robust and nuanced flavors to fulfil our palate’s sensory perception.
I am self-encouraged to start a craft beer business because of my desire to have my beers shared with as many people as possible. I have a great deal of passion for the beer brewing process, and enjoy the crafts produced by my hands. The desire to share these efforts with others is what truly makes me feel accomplished. Looking back at my youth, the idea that I have found the one thing I enjoy to do and am relatively accomplished at is a great thing for me to behold. My beer, in your mouth, quenching your thirst, and creating a pleasing sensation for you by way of hops, grain, yeast and water are exactly the reason why I brew. I can think of no greater personal calling than for me to be able to produce with my hands, my mind, my recollection of various components of the process and their interworking into a final product you would like to consume, to purchase, and to evangelize to others. Thank you for allowing me to serve you, thank you for wanting to be a patron of Augustino Brewing Company, a Wichita headquartered brewing company.