What you say: “…I actually brew my own beer now.”
What people hear: “Hear ye, hear ye! FREE BEER! I will cater all your parties, provide alcohol for the office Christmas party and ale will flow freely in the streets. You’ll never have to visit the bottle store again!”
This was pretty much the first lesson I learned as a newly set-up home brewer. Don’t worry if you’re there right now – the guilt you feel when ignoring incessant hints (or even saying an outright “no”) eventually dissipates when you realise that you’re doing the equivalent of the perpetual “I’ll get this round”… You also stop feeling embarrassed as you demand that people return your bottles so you can reuse them for the next batch.
As an intrepid home brewer, you end up learning some valuable life lessons too. Here are my “Top 5”.
#1 It cultivates patience
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished” – Lao Tzu
Despite the fact I’d love to live in a secluded cabin somewhere, I find myself instead caught up in the rat race in one of the busiest cities in Africa. Brewing is the perfect antidote for the unrelenting pressure of immediacy and the rise of instant gratification.
Turning grains, hops, water and yeast into beer is not an overnight process. In most cases it can take anywhere upwards of 30 days for a batch to go from ingredients to drink-ready. Yeast works at its own speed and there is no hurrying it up – it’ll be done when it’s good and ready.
It’s been great to take a step back, watching a process that moves at its own unhurried pace and results in something delicious.
#2 Not everything works out like you expect
“The best made plans of mice and men often go awry” – Robert Burns
No truer words have been spoken as I can think of countless examples throughout my life where something has turned out differently from what I planned, wanted or expected. Brewing reminds me of this constantly.
A minimum of one “oven beer” is a certainty because having one catastrophic disaster is a right of passage. Challenges, mistakes and the odd PMS-brew (you know – the ones which don’t work out for no apparent reason at all) are all par for the course.
When these things happen, you have no choice but to roll with the punches. Things usually turn out ok despite the occasional bugger up – even the infamous “oven beer” was pretty damn tasty.
#3 You need very little “stuff” to get the job done
“Do what you can, where you are, with what you have” – Theodore Roosevelt
Brewing equipment can be divided into 2 categories, namely “stuff you need” and “stuff you don’t need”.
The list of “stuff you need” is short and contains only the essential items without which the task would be impossible. Everything else falls into the “stuff you don’t need” category. Of course, there are bits-n-bobs which are included on the latter list that do actually make life easier, but the trick is to un-blur the line between the two categories.
When it comes to brewing, a good rule of thumb is if it doesn’t come in the starter kit, it’s probably not integral to your success. You can brew like a minimalist and still make amazing ales.
#4 You get to meet some amazing people
“Enthusiasm is contagious” – Susan Rabin
We live in an increasingly digital world where you can find and purchase almost anything online. But there is still not much that can replace face-to-face contact with knowledgeable people who are passionate about a subject.
Everyone I have come into contact with in the brewing community has been happy to share their knowledge and impart useful advice based on their own experiences. The guys at the shop where I buy my supplies are some of the nicest, most helpful people I’ve ever met.
#5 There is always something new to learn
“The world is a university and everyone in it is a teacher. Make sure when you wake up in the morning, you go to school.” – T. D. Jakes
I gain nuggets of new information every time I visit the shop to buy supplies, look for something online or try a new recipe. The more I learn, the more I realise how little I actually know about anything. I brew beer not only because the process is interesting and the results are rewarding but also to combat my own ignorance on the subject. No one ever accomplished anything truly exceptional inside their comfort zone.
George Bernard Shaw was quoted as saying, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” So while you’re busy doing that, why not create some amazing beer at the same time?
I’ll say cheers to that!
I buy my brewing supplies at National Food Products, which stocks a large array of kits, grains, hops, yeasts and equipment. In addition to beer brewing, they sell wine, clear liquor and cheese-making equipment and supplies too.
Whether you’re just starting out or have been at it for a while, if you find yourself in the Johannesburg area I highly recommend visiting the shop. The wealth of knowledge at your disposal at NFP far outweighs anything I’ve been able to find online. Click here for their website or follow them on their Facebook page.