Well, this week we take a look at something else very dear to my heart: beer. Our lovely reader asks:
What do you homebrew? How do you decide what to brew?
If you didn’t know this already, yes, I do homebrew beer (as well as gaming systems). As of now I’ve mainly tried out various brown ales, because I’m working on perfecting my recipe. If you’re at all familiar with homebrewing, you can do what’s called a full mash, a partial mash, or extract brewing. Many homebrewers choose to do extract brewing (where you buy a big ol’ container of malt syrup) because it greatly simplifies and shortens the brewing process. I like to make everything I do in life more complicated than necessary, so I do a full mash. This means that I extract my own malt syrup from whole grain barley by steeping it at specific temperatures, for specific periods of time, at a specific pH. It gives me more freedom to experiment, and also more room to fuck up, both of which I do a lot, because I’m still inexperienced.
The question of how I decided to waste so much time on a brown ale is a relatively easy one: I love brown ales. I’m attempting an English style brown, because I love big malty flavors and not too much hop bitterness overpowering all the subtle and delicious undertones that can come along with a truly great grain bill. But I will brew just about anything, with pretty much only one exception: IPAs. It’s not that I have anything inherently against IPAs, and a good IPA is a wonderful thing, but by and large I find that most IPAs are shitty, poorly balanced, focus way too much on the hops, and forget that the main ingredient of beer is malted barley. It annoys me to no end how hard it is to escape them, and so I find it difficult to want to brew them.
Living in Denver, CO, one of the biggest craft brew cities in the US, you can’t brew if you don’t make an IPA. And why is that? Because even in the world of brewing (a very small community) you still can’t escape trends and fads. And that’s all IPAs are: a goddamn silly fad.
IPAs became popular (along with other high alcohol, high hop beers), because they survived the sea voyage from England to India more effectively. They were practical. When you add hops to beer you have a few choices open to you: add them early in the boil (lots of bitterness & preservative effects) or add them later in the boil or directly into the fermenter (lots of wonderful aroma).
Bitterness is also measured with IBUs (International Bitterness Units), and goddamn it, there is such a thing is too much bitterness. Lots of IBUs aren’t cool. It doesn’t mean you’ve accomplished something awesome, it just means you dumped a shit-ton of hops into your boil. Fuck. If I have to hear another person extolling the wonders of the shitty IPA they’re drinking, just because it’s an IPA, I’ll probably boycott IPAs out of spite.
Now, I recognize that everyone has different palettes, and different tastes, and I will reiterate: I love a good IPA. But whenever you create a fad, you inevitably over-saturate the market with crap. And in my opinion, the worst crappy beer you can drink is a crappy IPA.
Drink beer that’s delicious, not beer that’s popular. Think. Drink. Enjoy. And support your local brewer.
You can also see me in action in One Die Short.