Just thinking about being a beer lover and home brewer and some of the things that drive me nuts.
Ok I’m not hating on the hops, heck I used to be a hop head but that was back when the IPAs that were available were of the traditional english style and were maybe 70 IBUs tops. I love the boom of craft breweries and the growing number of brave home brewers taking the plunge into to commercial brewing but I just don’t understand the huge fascination of IPAs. I would love to see a wider variety of styles offered by craft breweries. With 120+, and counting, recognized beer styles there has to be some other styles that could have a mass appeal. Last count at a local grocery store that has a good selection of beers there were 37 IPAs and less than 10 each of any other style. Some IPAs are very drinkable and others seem to be a contest of “how much hops can we fit into the boil kettle” and losing the other wonderful flavors in the process. It seems that small craft brewers without large distribution are brewing different styles but those that have distribution and bottle focus heavily on the IPAs. Come on brewers lets see some belgians, alts, wee heavies, steam beers, bocks. I think we are missing out.
How can we brew beer, have any repeatability or know what a recipe was suppose to really taste like when so many thermometers are so inaccurate? Accurate mash temperatures and fermentation temps are very important in brewing. Digital kitchen thermometers are handy and readily available but often very inaccurate. Even expensive dial thermometers are often off. I recently discovered that my Taylor brand dial thermometer was off 8 degrees and this is a company that specializes in thermometers for the food industry. Mash temps that are off only 3-5 degrees can affect the amount of fermentable sugars left after the mash and change the outcome of the brew. One of the best things any new home brewer can do is go out and buy a glass thermometer from your local home brewing supply shop. Take it home and drag out all your other thermometers and using cold water and hot water check the accuracy of your thermometers. If they can be calibrated then adjust them to match the reading of the glass thermometer. If they can not be calibrated then make a note of how much they are off.
Home brew shops that don’t welcome new methods and ideas.
One of the great things about home brewing is trying new things. New brewing methods, twists on a beer style are all things that further the craft of brewing beer. Home brew shops rely on us home brewers and we rely on them. Most are owned and run by home brewers like us. It is a learning opportunity that benefits us both. An open attitude about brewing is huge when it comes to welcoming and encouraging new home brewers, they’ve probably heard about different methods are uncertain and nervous. When I started home brewing in 1989 all grain brewing was done without pumps, on the stove or a propane burner and if you did all-grain you fly sparged…because that was just how it was done. High tech was three vessel, keggle based, three tiered, gravity flow systems. Other home brewers were envious of you if you had a stainless steel perforated false bottom since most of us used bucket-in-a-bucket mash tuns. Temperature control was a thermometer. Now we have home brewers, myself included, using electric elements that are PID or even computer controlled, automated valves, plate wort chillers, wort oxygenating setups, glycol chilling, conical fermenters, electric pumps, pH meters, refractometers, BIAB, batch sparging, no sparge, no chill, one gallon batches and who knows what is next. Experimenting, planning how to do something easier, how to make your brewing more efficient, changing recipes because it sounds good and not caring if the color or IBU rating matches a recognized style. That is what makes this hobby fun and exciting. I encourage us all to try new things and share the outcome. Everything we do as home brewers really does effect the art of brewing beer in some way or another.
Lack of specialized equipment for home brewers.
We adapt because, well, we are home brewers and heck it’s fun but we need more things designed for our special circumstances. The number of home brewers is huge and we have specialized needs for equipment that are a great opportunity for companies but few seem inspired to go there. Yes coolers work as mash tuns but why not market a stainless insulated mash tun made just for home brewing? The English have but apparently they think we Americans have an obsession with Igloo coolers and wouldn’t buy a stainless insulated mash tun designed just for brewing. Small batch brewers, well we are just weird people wanting to brew 1-3 gallons and should be happy with what we can fabricate out of things in the kitchenware isle at Walmart. Why not a 4 gallon Blichmann Boilermaker? Why not a 3 gallon stainless conical fermenter?