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Homebrewing Dogma: Try, Then Trust

Josh Weikert dispels myths of brewing dogma because “the way it’s always been done” doesn’t always work for you.

Josh Weikert Feb 13, 2019 - 14 min read

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Brewing is traditional. When we fire up our kettles, mash in our grains, boil our worts, and ferment our beers, we’re using techniques, lessons, and ingredients that sometimes date back millennia. Of course, the other side of that coin is that brewing is dogmatic, which is a problem: much of what we treat as inherited wisdom and which presents as incontrovertibly true…isn’t.

If I had a dollar for every time I was told something “always” worked or “couldn’t” work in my brewery, I’d have many dollars. Questioning and testing dogma is useful (if you don’t believe me, skim “On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill, which I won’t bore you with here), but brewers seem reluctant to do so. Brewing is often a risk-averse enterprise, and the most-common answer I get when questioning brewing dogma (and which I’ve given myself, by the by) is “well, it can’t hurt,” or “better safe than sorry.”

That’s a bad habit to get into because it can lead to the maintenance of a lot of other bad or unnecessary habits that end up costing you time, money, and beer. Instead, I argue that you should abandon dogmatic brewing and seek out what works for you. What follows are a number of brewing practices that, in my experience and measured quantitatively (in competition) and qualitatively (in my mouth), can be abandoned or amended while still producing award-winning beer.

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