I’m lucky to live in craft beer heaven. My medium sized town has about 20 breweries and a host of tap rooms. Throw in the neighboring towns and the brewery count skyrockets. With so much flavorful, interesting beer on tap, is it worth investing the time and money into homebrewing?
If you’re already a brewer, you do have the incentive of sunk costs: since you’ve already got all the gear, you might as well use it. But even for newbies, there are several good reasons to pick up the hobby.
Starting up and running a brewery costs a lot of money. That translates into rising prices at the package store. Is craft beer worth it? Of course, it is. Homebrewing has also gotten more expensive as the quality and demand for ingredients has grown, but it’s still cheaper to brew your own. Even if you spend $50 in ingredients, it’s less than the $8-12 per 6-pack you’d pay for commercial beer.
Demographics of One
Successful breweries are good at making beers that resonate with their market. Even if you’re not in the center of that group, the beer might be perfectly acceptable. But why not try for perfect? As a homebrewer, you can tailor your recipes to your own personal taste. Beer styles and fickle fashion be damned; if you want a Pacific Northwest IPA brewed with a mix of Noble hop varieties, have it your way. Conduct some market research on yourself and fine tune your beer for the one palate that matters, your own.
If the first two reasons above got me into brewing, pride and satisfaction kept me at it. Just like I savor a great meal cooked from scratch, there’s something special about having my own beer on tap. It’s even better when I have guests. Serving a well-made beer and reaping the compliments can’t be beat. Try to tell people about your biking regimen and their eyes will glaze; pour them a solid pint of quality homebrew and you’ll have their respect.
No one becomes an expert brewer overnight. It takes trial and error, attention to detail, and many batches to learn the craft. It’s fun to rise to the challenge and develop those brewing skills. Once you get it down, it’s certainly easy enough to rest on your laurels and crank out the same few recipes, but this is a hobby that offers life-long growth. Brewing evolves, offering new styles, new ingredients, and process improvements; staying on top of it all brings its own satisfaction.
School of Beer
In some places, the craft market seems to be saturated with breweries. Despite that, you may have the dream of going pro and opening your own place. There’s a lot to learn on the business side, but top-notch brewing skills are part of the bare minimum for success. Even if you decide to take advantage of professional educational resources, homebrewing will give you a leg up. You may end up hiring a brewer while you run the business side, but early on, that homebrew knowledge will serve you well.
Worst Case Scenarios
Forget about market saturation, what if something really bad goes down? Societal collapse, zombie apocalypse, computer singularity, anarchy in the U.K. -- in the event of an emergency, survival may depend on what real skills you bring to the table. A fermentation master has some obvious value. Plus, you’d likely have a cellar full of trade goods. It probably won’t come to that, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.
Podcast Episode 21: New Belgium's Wood Cellar Director & Blender Lauren Limbach
Jamie is joined by American sour beer pioneer Lauren Limbach of New Belgium Brewing, and they talk about the evolution of New Belgium’s sour beer program, from the earliest days two decades ago to the advances in analytics and technical process today.