As I said in my previous post, to counteract my midlife crisis I am going on a learning spree. One of the things I want to learn about is beer. Why? just look at some of the other posts on this blog, check out my profile on untappd check the booze cupboard in my house.... Yes, I like a drop or gallon now and again.
I will be honest, I wasn't a great lover of beer for some time. Much of my teenage drinking and a lot of my early twenties was mostly cider and Pernod, that moved on slightly where summer was cider, winter Guiness now with added whiskey and vodka but then a change happened in this country. Albright and John Smiths started to be replaced and new beers were being found in more bars. I was lucky that there were quite a few pubs where I grew up that were already proud supporters of "real" ale, sadly they were certainly not the places you colud have lots of fun at, let alone pull women, so they were mostly avoided.
Obviously things have improved, the craft beer movement, really kicked off by the americans taking on what Camra gave us already, changed everything and over the years this has just grown and grown, exploded even. As an example in 2006 there were 7 breweries in London, today that number is at 75 according to London Beer Guide on the day I published this. This has not only opened up the choice but has also had a great affect for the whole industry. Craft brewing has saved certain hops from dying out, it has allowed new ones to be continued, more importantly it has allowed home brewers to get access to such great ingredients as suppliers get used to dealing with selling smaller batches.
As well as drinking I have been brewing for years, making a rice wine when I was far to young to drink it (it got poured away as it tasted like paint stripper, not my comment my fathers and now thinking on it I suspect it might have been amazing, he just has no taste :)). When I moved to London I brewed loads of different ciders, turbo ciders (juice from a shop + yeast + water), and a load of single variety and mixed batch apples as where I lived gave me access to really cheap apples when they were just turning and they couldn't sell them, perfect for making cider though. Throw in a few more wines and different ciders as I have moved around and then I got to the beer. Inspired by being surrounded by breweries and with a couple of liquid malt extract kits done over a few years I jumped into all grain. Two very successful brews later, a big pot purchased, I'm all excited and then baught a house. Thaty killed that off, not in my mind in anyway shape or form but physically.
The ambition has continued to grow. When I started the beer brewing in London I also started to listen to podcasts, one in particular Basic Brewing Radio. Its american based, so things are a little different but it is very interesting. As the title suggests it is all about the basics of brewing, aimed at home brewers, but covers some very complex subjects. Countary, yes, basic, still yes. The topics can be extremely complex and things that you don't often need to know as a beginning home brewer but they will certainly make you aware that you don't have to worry if your beginning and the reasons why not, while also making sure any terms/styles/techniques are briefly explained to you quickly so you understand whats going on. It was certainly an eye opener and made me realise that such a basic thing, where it is very easy to make something drinkable, has so many layers of complexity. As my journey to work has changed it has allowed me to go back through the archives. This has been amazing and has allowed me to learn so much and has possibly saved me from many rookie errors, even though I'm not yet brewing. The two things that it has taught me, important points, are, there is so much out there that you need to experiment to understand your ingredients to be able to work well with them and, you cant really go wrong, it very rarely that time wont fix something horrific... What more do I need to take up the challenge? Nothing. So thats why I am where I am. Just realising that while I like beer, neigh love beer, there is so much that I don't know and there is so much to learn that you will never stop learning but I believe to truly appreciate it I need to get the basics. Four basic ingredients to a life of learning, I think that should be fun.
So what are the next steps?
- I'm going to join the UK Homebrewing association
- I'm going to look at doing the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), this has come from American but it is designed to training you to match with the styles that The american feel the need to put everything into. Don't get my wrong I think most of what they say is bull, but they are getting better and while I don't really agree with putting everything into its own little slot, I believe that it should help train my pallet, help me recognise certainly things both good and bad, all of which I believe will assist me in becoming a better brewer.
Keep an eye out for more things coming up on this topic....