For the Love of Beer
Republished from BrewingTechniques' May/June 1994.
Creative brewing requires that rules be broken, and the ranks of small-scale brewers are filled with heretics. If every brewer were to cling to common definitions of brewing practice we would have no lambic, no India Pale Ale, no California common beer, and indeed none of the many, many specialty beers produced in the homes, pubs, and microbreweries around the world. It takes some crazed individual somewhere saying "Let's double or triple the hopping rate" or "Let's substitute that ale yeast with this lager yeast" or "Let's add cherries and chocolate" to discover new horizons in brewing.
I would argue that it is precisely this spirit of experimentation and discovery that impels us to brew. This creative disposition and the relentless pursuit of quality is becoming the defining characteristic of BrewingTechniques readers.
Many of us began our brewing experience out of love for good beer and the promise of world-class taste. We knew that a vast variety existed, and we were determined to explore it. The next step for many was the evolution from interest to passion, leading to a Quest equal in power to that for the Holy Grail. We dream new recipes at night, we envision new equipment designs while waiting for the dentist, we fret, we worry, we nurse our beers through threats of ill health, and we rejoice when at last victory is achieved. Our beer is alive not only because of the yeast it contains but because of the life with which we have infused it.
Some brewers even venture the next transformation: from passion to profession. Dave Miller's comments in this issue notwithstanding (see page 18), a vast number of home brewers continue to seek careers in brewing. Judging from the attendance at the 1994 National Microbrewers and Pubbrewers Conference in Portland last month, we can expect to see many new brewpubs and micros opening around the country this year, many of them led by home brewers turned pro.
Traditionally, the brewing community has been separated into three camps: large commercial breweries, home brewers, and, bridging those vastly different worlds at an ever-increasing rate, pub and microbrewers. Until recently, the boundaries between these camps held firm. Nowadays, the lines of division may be blurring. Not only are the big boys beginning to brew specialty beers, they are even subscribing to BrewingTechniques!
BrewingTechniques was launched under the premise that home, pub, and microbrewers shared a common core of experience. Both home and professional brewers have creative control over the entire brewing process, they can change things, they experiment readily, and they exercise an immediate and compelling commitment to quality. I have always assumed that the commonality was based on scale. Now that several of the major breweries have taken out subscriptions to BrewingTechniques, I am beginning to think that it is more a matter of approach or philosophy.
In the face of increasing competition, the Goliaths are taking lessons from the Davids. They must learn about the knowledgeable beer crowd's tastes, and they must learn or relearn how to achieve results comparable to those of smaller, quality-minded craft breweries. In short, they must rekindle their love affair with beer and brewing and return to their roots in more human-scale methods.
I take these developments as a good sign. The modern beer renaissance is not only elevating the quality of homebrew and increasing the variety of microbrews in the local supermarket's beer cooler, it may also be leading to a complete redefinition of the commercial beer market. In such a glorious beer future (as is already happening), brewers compete on the basis of variety and quality, and the trends in taste and experimentation are led by an avant-garde of small-scale brewers from home as well as small, craft-oriented commercial breweries.
Hope springs eternal. May great beer do likewise.
Stephen A. Mallery
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