As I write this, a five gallon batch of beer is bubbling away in contented fermentation in my closet. It’s a West Coast IPA with Simcoe and Amarillo hops done in the style of Alpine’s Duet, the beer that originally sold me on the brewery over half a decade ago. I don’t homebrew all that often, maybe two or three times a year, but I feel myself becoming a more astute drinker each time I do. Homebrewing not only teaches the steps involved in crafting a beer, it familiarizes me with ingredients as individual components. I’ve said before that an understanding of the brewing process can deepen your appreciation for beer, but actually doing invites the hands-on knowledge that can’t be obtained otherwise.
Oftentimes, you’ll hear someone tout the aroma of a hop-forward beer, indicating which hop variety contributes to this particularly pleasing scent. While it’s possible that beer has a clean and an unassuming malt profile with unobtrusive yeast, chances are the finished product doesn’t smell like hops and hops alone. Brewing, even every once in awhile, allows you to evaluate these ingredients individually, so when someone offers you a Mosaic-hopped IPA, you know what Mosaic hops should smell like in their natural (or pelletized) state. Then, the next time you sniff that IPA, you’ll be able to notice how the hops actually build on the subtle sweetness of Canadian two-row or Maris Otter malts or that some of the fruit aromas come from the yeast instead. Of course, the critical drinker could buy these ingredients from a homebrew shop for educational purposes without the intention of brewing with them, but where would the fun be in that?
Furthermore, homebrewing reminds you that brewing isn’t easy and can hopefully keep the egos of hypercritical beer geeks in check when they realize that the pale ale they brewed not only doesn’t hold a candle to Hill Farmstead’s offerings, it probably isn’t as good as the local brewery’s Cascade-hopped pale ale they just gave three stars to on Untappd. When we get used to having really good beer, it’s nice to have some humility and recognize the extraordinary effort taken to reach the quality we now enjoy.