Homebrew Like It's Your Job June 21 2017, 0 Comments

I've been a homebrewer since 2005 or so. I began, as most people do, with a lesson from another homebrewer, the HR manager where I worked. We brewed a beer on the loading dock, and three weeks later, I was officially hooked. "Brewing beer is easy!"

Brewing riverside on the Metolius River near Bend, Oregon

From there, I advanced bit-by-bit, gathering knowledge and recipes from books and the corners of the internet. I brewed like I cooked, starting with an idea, finding a recipe, and then ignoring most of its details as I created something which was usually - but not always - pretty drinkable.

At right, an old photo of my friend Thom and I brewing riverside on the Metolius River near Bend, Oregon. We drew our brew water from the mouth of the river about 100 yards from its source. I'm the one in the Red Sox hat.

While I had fun, there were two problems with this approach:

  1. I was never able to brew the same beer twice. The reason? I didn't take good notes, and those I did were often scribbled in the margins of loose sheets of paper. I made frequent ingredient substitutions, usually failing to write them down! If I took notes during the brew day, I'd often fail to record subsequent milestones, such as the final gravity, or how long it fermented, when I racked it, etc. 
  2. Brew days took forever, particularly as I moved into all-grain brewing. With good intentions, I'd assure my friends and family that "it should only take a few hours," and the projected finish line would move farther and farther away. Usually, I'd end up alone, in the dark, washing something, long after my helpers had lost interest. I missed a lot of dinners.
33 Brews: A Homebrewing Log

When I got the idea for my new homebrew book, I knew I could fix the first issue with good graphic design, which is where my professional strengths lie.

The second issue was solved when I asked my friends at Gigantic Brewing in Portland if I could observe a professional brew day. In all my years of beer, I'd never watched a pro brewer at work, start to finish, despite having toured breweries in at least 20 states.

The difference between home brewers and pro brewers? Pro brewers leave at the end of the day, and they pretty much know they'll be home for supper. They plan their brew day before they fire the kettle, usually to the minute. I took that idea, and modified it slightly for homebrewing. It's a segment of the page I call "Brew Milestones," and it just might save your marriage/friendships.

The idea is that you put your time milestones in before you start. If you know you're going to fire the kettle at 1:15, write that in the first box. From there, your recipe should tell you how long to mash, sparge and boil. This way, you can work towards a plan, and you'll know what's coming next.

Here's an example brew.

Brew Milestones in 33 Brews: A Homebrewing Log

Like my other books, this journal contains space for 33 brews, which should last you a good long time. Unlike my other books, it's a bit larger at 5 x7 inches. Still compact enough to put it in your pocket, and it'll keep all your recipes together in one convenient place. Happy brewing!

Fun fact: this business started as a direct result of homebrewing. In 2006 or so, I was working in marketing at a technology company, and got curious about a blog software platform called Wordpress. To kick the tires, I set up a fake blog for my homebrewing collective, affectionately known as BS Brewing. I started writing about our beer and brewing adventures. With its memory-erasing side effects, beer can be difficult to remember the next day, so I made a little tool to help me take quick tasting notes, a project which became 33 Beers, my first tasting notebook.