For many people, craft beer is a luxury. For others, it's a necessity!! For me, it's both! It's a reward for long day at work, or a great workout or race one weekend. It's also the only option for me because when I want to reward myself, I want something special. Something that makes me feel like it was made specifically for me. Not some mass marketed product that is made to please the majority. A good craft beer is the only thing that will do.
It wasn't always that way though. I can remember back to my youth when I'd be sitting with my dad watching the Patriots, Bruins or Red Sox and seeing my dad crack open a few Michelob's or Coors. I remember that first sip he gave me. I remember thinking, "really, I can have a sip?" and cherishing that sip like it was the blood of Christ. I didn't like it, but it wasn't the quality I was looking for, it was the feeling that I had started to grow up and be "a man" because I had some of my dads beer.
As I got older my drinking habits, and reason's, changed. I no longer had a few sips so I could feel more mature and like a man, I drank because I wasn't allowed to! I drank to be a rebel! And, coincidentally, I drank whatever I could get my hands on which was always cheap macro lager.
This continued into and through college (yes I drank in high school once or twice) as the normal keger was flowing with Milwaukee's best, "The Beast" as we called it. It was no where near tasty, but it was cheap and it did the job. Most of all though, I didn't know any better. I didn't know that I could drink beer and actually enjoy it for the taste too, not just for how much fun I had while drinking it.
It was my sophomore year in college when I had my first taste of craft beer. We were having a small get together and he brought some Saranac Adirondack Lager. I couldn't believe how good it was. I mean, beer wasn't supposed to taste good, it was supposed to get you drunk. I remember staring at the bottle reading every word trying to figure out why it was so different. I must have asked him 100 times where he got it. The next day, I was at the beer store buying more, and was baffled to see they had even more varieties than just Saranac Adirondack Lager.
Throughout the remainder of my tenure at Hartwick College, I did continue to drink macro lagers and craft beers. Mainly because the macro's were cheap and I didn't have a lot of money as a college kid, and because that's what was being served at party's.
So how does this tie into home brewing? Well, my senior year I was in the beer store staring at the craft section trying to figure out what I wanted. A man came in and went right to the craft section and grabbed some Saranac Black Forest. As he was paying, the cashier asked him how the brewing was going. Was he a brewer? I needed to know. I quickly paid and followed him out and asked where he brewed. He told me he wasn't a professional brewer, he brewed at home. We chatted, and then he told me to come down to his store to chat some more and he would explain all he could about home brewing.
I went to his store, we chatted for about an hour, and I left with my first home brewing kit and ingredients for an Amber Ale. From that day on, I never looked at beer the same. I drank each beer and always though, "Can I make this?". I tried a few batches, and each one failed miserably. Poor sanitation was usually the cause, but mostly it was my lack of ability to follow instructions. I just threw some stuff in the pot, cooked it, added yeast and thought I'd get some beer. Not the case!
After college, I took about a 7 year hiatus from brewing and focused on drinking! It was fun, and I tried every craft beer I could, started reading about how they were made and finally decided to give it a go again....this time with much better success. I've been brewing now frequently for the past two and a half years and have tried to learn with each session. What can I do better? What other styles can I try? What would happen if I used this ingredient? There is a ton more brewing I need to do in order to considered advanced, but I think I'm getting pretty close. Just think, I might have never gotten here if it were not for that Adirondack Lager I had back in college!!
Cheers and happy Fermentation Friday!