I have been a craft beer fanatic for most of my adult life. I remember when I paid a whole seven dollars for a six-pack of Sam Adams Boston Lager, and my mind was blown. If I had all of the money I spent on craft beer in my bank account, I could be driving a fairly nice new car. My new life motto is “give a man a beer and he’ll waste an evening…teach a man to brew and he’ll waste a lifetime.”
But, as I seemingly have convinced my wife, this is a much cheaper mid-life crisis than a fancy sports car, or god forbid, a girlfriend. Brewing is all at home and with my family surrounding me (my 6-year-old twins help me bottle, and even pour the grain into my mash tun).
So, back in April, I did my first extract batch – a Black IPA from The Brew Hut in my hometown of Aurora, CO. I was shocked at how easily and cheaply, with only a few hours invested, I could make a GREAT CRAFT BEER!
Then soon after, a BH Apricot Blonde, Belgian Blonde, and Hefe. All great, all easy.
Now, I was a cyclist from years ago, so I have always loved mechanical stuff, tools, and great equipment (I have thousands of dollars of bicycles in my garage. Remnants of a skinnier past). With homebrewing, I could buy really cool equipment and toys, and I was making beer!
First, I went “off recipe” and added 8 lbs. of canned pumpkin to a pumpkin ale. It took a long time to bottle age all the fruity solvents away, but now it is like a wonderful pumpkin champagne! I was even more hooked. Then, I built my lagering fridge from an old dorm fridge (using HBT recommendations), and made a beautifully clean Pilsner.
Next, I used AMEX points to buy a lagering cave (a deep freeze with a temperature controller), and learned how wonderfully homebrewed and home-bottled beer ages. I swear all of the beers I haven’t finished off get better with each passing month. So my addiction increased.
Now, I have a gravity 3-tier shelf system, a 15G Blichmann mash tun, and plan to upgrade to all Blich burners/pots in the next year or two (depending how much tolerance my wife allows me).
I brewed my 1st All Grain California Common, which was fantastic. In fermentation is my 1.073 IBA, which reeks of hops through the airlock.
My evolution: I have added four 5G glass secondary carboys. Hoping to age great largers, doppelbocks, and Belgian styles in them soon. I just had a delicious Dunkelweizen that I can’t wait to duplicate…there are too many wonderful beers and I can’t drink enough to keep up with what I dream of brewing.
In addition to all grain, I grow starters on a stir plate, and I oxygenate all worts and starters. One of my best investments was a bench bottle capper, so while I want to keg, bottling isn’t so bad (plus, my kids do help with that). Good thermometers help achieve accurate mash temps. A refractometer is a cool tool.
My turkey fryer pots now have 1/2″ valves on them, which greatly facilitate my 3-tier gravity shelves.Do I lust after a 20G Blich burner/kettle, and a 15G HLT- yes, but I have a workable, reliable, efficient system.
I have founded a local brew club, the Beacon Point Brewclub, Aurora, CO. Join us on Facebook.My next personal goal is a Dunkel Doppelbock, with a double decoction. Go big or go home!
And I must say that home brewers are the nicest people I have ever been a part of. My LHBS, The Brew Hut, has homebrewer nights that I consider free mini-GABFs. And being in Denver, I am a 3-yr. GABF alum, it is a highlight of my year if you’ve never been.
I hope to be a highly contributing member of this site, we homebrewers must work together to rid the world of crappy mass brews. Amen.