Beyond bottling day… how to make great, finished homebrew

There have been a lot of things that I’ve picked up as a hobby which, over time, became semi-obsessions.  Homebrewing is one of them, but the biggest and longest lasting one I have is photography.  I grudgingly started doing black and white photography in high school, simply because I had to take a year of what was considered an art class.  After some time, I warmed up to it, and by the time the class was done and I was off to college, I’d fallen in love with it.

My college had a darkroom that I used a lot, and pretty soon I had boxes full of fantastic prints I’d made.  I also had several hung in my room, which I’d put up with thumb tacks.  One of my friends, who was also a photographer, commented that my pictures were good, but that I wasn’t treating them like they deserved to be treated.  To him, the photographic process didn’t stop when the print was made.  It continued far peyond, finding the right frame, finding the right spot to hang it, and then finding other pictures to place around it to tell a story.  Now, doing homebrewing, I’m starting to rethink what making my own beer really means in these terms.

I’ve made a lot of good batches, some so good that I didn’t want to share them.  I also have a stockpile of beer at my house.  But once again, it’s sitting in boxes in my closet.  When I bottle, I typically make some common mark on all the caps to tell which beer is which.  Over half of it is bottled in reused commercial bottles that I didn’t even take the time to remove the labels from.  It’s like my dedication to making the beer great stopped the minute I capped the bottles.

But there’s so much more to do with homebrew.  I’ve decided that I’m going to take the time to make the beer I brew into something more special than just being something to drink:

  1. Finding the perfect name for each batch.
  2. Making labels for the bottles to give them a clean finished look.
  3. Finding food that pairs with your beer and figure out how to bring out it’s best qualities with a full meal.
  4. Keeping a bottle of each batch I make to display a history of my brewing.
  5. Creating 4-pack mixes to give to friends, and maybe even giving that combination of beers a theme.
  6. Just writing about my beer, journaling what happened on the brew day, logging the details about how it was made and describing what I like and don’t like about each one.

All of these things can add so much enjoyment to the beer you create.  Homebrewing doesn’t have to just be about creating great beer.  It can also be about creating a great finished product.  There may not even be such a thing as a truly finished product.  Show your hand-crafted beer and wine some love before you drink it down.  Make them memorable, and your homebrewing will take on a whole new life.

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