I’m trying to stay involved, so here’s my entry for Home Brew Blogging Day
When I went away to college in 1997, I lived in the dorms on a floor with a lot of other dudes. Their ages varied, but most were right out of high school. One guy had a significant bit of age on him, despite only being 4 years older. He and I became friends due to a number of common interests, one of which was good beer. He preferred the darker beers and preferred the bitters, but we both appreciated the other’s taste.
One day I walked in to the dorm kitchen to find him steeping something that smelled wonderful. He was doing a partial mash home brew – something that both piqued my interest in DIY and was scandalous at the same time. I was still a minor, but I couldn’t get in trouble for brewing it since it hadn’t yet fermented.
I helped him brew a few more times over the next 2 years – mostly off site since he got tired of living with teenagers. Most of the beers turned out passable, some were downright wretched. We bottled in to Grolsch bottles and those little 5 liter party kegs. The problem with the party kegs was that you had to drink them all at once or the ambient air you used to pump the beverage would oxidize the beer. One such beer left us all with wicked hangovers even though none of us had more than maybe 2 pints. He finished school 2 years ahead of me and we’ve kept in touch a little since. Still, he’s my patron saint of brewing.
For my 22nd birthday, my girlfriend (now wife), got me a home brew starter kit of my own. I was living with 5 other guys in a house off campus. I brewed a first batch around the horrible mess of a kitchen, and wasn’t shocked when the first beer came out infected. We used it for bratwurst, but only managed to drink maybe a dozen bottles. The second batch, a stout, was entirely drinkable, but not fantastic. Brewing in a kitchen used by 5 other guys, most of whom were slobs, posed a real challenge to sanitation. I’d spend 1-2 hours cleaning the bathtub and kitchen, start brewing, and about halfway through the boil, people would all get back from class and start making meals. I managed to produce some decent beer, and I had plenty of access to free bottles, but it wasn’t until I was home for summer that I brewed my first great beer. It’s amazing sanitization does for beer.
This year marks roughly my 10th year home brewing, and I’ve probably done 50-60 batches. Each year brings some new techniques and better beers (when I remember to rack them).