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What’s Brewing for the Holidays?

Get ready for National Learn to Homebrew Day 2017

Jester Goldman 10 months ago

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The American Homebrew Association (AHA) has designated November 4, 2017 as Learn to Homebrew Day. The idea is for us to introduce the hobby to our non-brewing friends and family. I wholeheartedly endorse the idea, but I’d like to suggest extending the recognition of the day.

With the holidays coming up, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll find yourself with a house full of guests to entertain. The main event itself should be packed with activities: feasting and football on Thanksgiving, for instance. But what about Black Friday or the weekend? You could load up and go shopping or sightseeing, but wouldn’t it be more relaxing to hang out and brew a batch of beer together?

Think about it. Instead of arguing politics with your in-laws, you could have a much more entertaining debate on the merits of New England style vs traditional West Coast IPAs and which one you should brew. Aside from giving you something to do together, leading them through the brewing process provides a wealth of conversational topics, so no awkward silences. Even better, if they pick up the hobby, you’ll have more in common next year.

Putting it Together

So how do you make it happen? If you’re a conscientious host, your guests have already been enjoying your beer, which provides the perfect opening. You might show off your gear and then mention that you’ll be brewing again in the next day or so. From there, it’s a natural next step to ask if they’d like to help out. Your invitation should be casual, but behind the scenes, you’ll want to organize the brew day for their benefit.

Remember that you’re not just trying to kill some time with your guests; you want to help them catch the brewing bug. So, it’s best to keep things simpler, so they can imagine doing this themselves. A triple decoction mash or $3K worth of fancy equipment (or both together) would impress a fellow geek, but amateurs would just be overwhelmed or discouraged.

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Pick a straightforward style like IPA or amber ale, and plan it out as an extract batch with some specialty grains. Aside from being an easier process to follow, extract brewing doesn’t require as much of an equipment investment and clean up will be easier.

You might also consider writing up a plan of attack: an equipment checklist, a copy of the recipe, and a summary of the steps will keep things on track and make a nice reference for your apprentice brewer. Speaking of handouts, you can also download the AHA’s Introduction to Homebrewing PDF to share as well.

It’s Showtime

On brewday, start out by walking through your plan. Explain the gear as you pull it out, give an overview of the process from sanitation to fermentation, and then go over the recipe. Introduce them to the ingredients. Invite them to taste the malt and take in the heady aroma of hops.

Once you’re ready to start, make sure they participate. Hands-on experience is fun and it also gives them some ownership over the outcome. Let them steep the specialty grains until the water is close to boiling. Have them stir in the extract and add the hops. Along the way, you can explain why you’re doing each of these steps and answer their questions.

Of course, don’t forget Charlie Papazian’s advice: relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew. Crack open a couple of beers and let them experience the free time in between hop additions or waiting for the wort to cool.. Brewing requires some attention, but it’s not all pressure.

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Later that evening or the next morning, let them see the kräusen build in the fermenter and hear the burble of the airlock.

Follow up

Ideally, you’ll all connect again over the winter holidays, which will be the perfect time to share the beer you brewed together. Even if they aren’t hooked, your brewing will have built some new bridges and you’ll have plenty to talk about. But maybe they will take it up and next time you can lead them deeper into the hobby. Remember, the more people out there brewing good beer, the better your chances at drinking some of it.

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