In the beginning
Every time you decide to make another batch of beer, something inspires you to make a specific style with a specific recipe. When I started homebrewing, this inspiration was as simple as, “That sounds tasty…”, and that was it. I would pick a kit or find a recipe online that matched what I was in the mood for and I was on my way to a new batch. It’s not much of an inspiration, but I can remember being really excited to make a particular style I’d never made before. Sometimes I still feel this same inspiration.
Fast forward a few years, and I learned that Dogfish Head brewery was going to be the focus of a reality show called Brew Masters. I was so excited about this show because, as a homebrewer, I might actually be able to relate to it. It was a fun show to watch… and then there was the episode on Ancient Ales. In this episode, they go to Egypt to recreate the beer that existed there thousands of years ago. I was capitvated by this idea, and I was so moved to brew that I started an all-grain batch at 10pm that night right after the show. I didn’t finish the batch until around 2am, and to date, it was one of my most memorable batches.
This all brought me to Dogfish’s line of Ancient Ales and the concept behind them. Their own web page does not really do them justice, but I was able to find this TEDx talk by Sam Calagione that describes them much more eloquently. If you fast forward to 8:30, he begins to talk about this line of beers, his research into them, and the stories behind them. I was hooked on this historical perspective on beers.
I then found a book called Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers. Some of the beers in there are, let’s say, really exotic. Through reading this book, I’ve discovered that I enjoy the stories behind beers as much as I enjoy the beers themselves. This book describes ancient civilizations believing that fermentation was actually some sort of mystic ‘boiling’ or ‘dancing’ – and that a pot which was already dancing could ‘teach other pots how to dance’. This is amazing!
Homebrewing can be found everywhere in our history as a country. We know that George Washington was a homebrewer, and his recipe can easily be replicated. I also love stories from the prohibition era. There are many people who still have the recipes their grandparents used to make during this time. Imagine that for many years, homebrewing was the only way to get beer! For many people, making these recipes is like visiting the past and reconnecting with a part of their family history.
What about you?
So what inspires you to brew? Is it about repeating a recipe until it’s perfect, or just trying out some crazy idea you had while sitting in traffic? Or maybe you get inspired by a commercial beer you’ve tasted and want to replicate it, or maybe even tweak it to make it your own. Do you like to make mead and LARP in the backyard? Whatever the reason, tell us about that thing that drives you to make your next batch!