Session #92: Homebrewer's Appreciation
I love this topic. And frankly, I was as surprised as Jeremy to learn that there'd only been one Session topic on Homebrewing (out of 91!) before today.
Homebrewing has most certainly affected my view of beer. I first brewed about 15 years ago in the kitchen of my college apartment in Boulder. At that time, my friends and I drank craft beers, but I really had no idea what "craft" really meant in that phrase. As far as I knew, beer production was just another manufacturing process like bic pens and coca cola.
I got a little more serious about brewing in 2007, and by then I had a much greater appreciation for beer styles, having had a love affair with most styles of ale at one point or another. Like many "beer geeks" you hear today, I loved all things hoppy, thought wheat beers were for the birds and American style lagers were best used to water my lawn. I also knew nothing about saccrification, fermentation, Sanctification or real beer validation.
But as I got more serious about beer, I started to study the science behind it on an ever-deepening quest to improve the quality of my own beer. I gained a greater appreciation for the challenges of consistent brewing (bravo, Budweiser) and for the subtleties of a well produced sour beer. I started spending so much time thinking about beer production that I couldn't talk to my wife about anything else! Eventually she told me I needed to go find some other beer nerds to talk to, which is how I met Billy and Jeremy.
Then the doors came off. Our little group spent 14 months studying for the BJCP exam, going through each style category one by one. In no time, I developed a much deeper appreciations for styles of beer I didn't know I loved (e.g. dunkel and the aforementioned American lager) and I gained a greater appreciation for the challenge of producing a world-class beer. I learned that, done right, a wheat beer can be as good as any IPA, and that it is far easier to produce a decent stout than a German-style Pils. My love for sours and IPAs has not diminished, and in fact I will still drink an IPA any day of the week, but I'm now just as likely to order a lager at my local tap room.
In answer to Jeremy's final question: I believe this process has moved me past "beer snob" to "beer appreciator." I find that people who are just getting into the craft movement, those who will tell you that an IPA or an American-produced sour is FAR superior to any wheat - in fact, those who will generalize that any style of beer is better than any other - are far more likely to be pretentious assholes. The super-homebrewers I know, those who have invested countless hours in pursuit of their expertise (but who would not tell you that they are indeed experts, because there's always someone who knows more), carry a much greater humility about their beer appreciation. They love to talk, and they know what they are talking about, but the conversation is more about sharing the love than passing judgements.
In other words, they follow in the footsteps of the great Michael Jackson, whose larger-than-life presence graces the hall of this (and every) year's Great American Beer Fest.