Home brewing is certainly nothing new - it's actually a throwback to the roots of brewing, when families made their own brews because there were few alternatives. That changed in the US with the rise of big breweries, but the modern resurgence in brewing at home truly is something new, or rather, something old happening for new reasons. Why is home brewing gaining so much steam? Here are some interesting reasons cited by actual home brewers.
Really Social in an Age of False Connections
Most of us are stuffed to the gills with "social" activities. We check Facebook, "like" our friends' posts, share things that matter to us, tweet with buddies on Twitter and grow our business networks on LinkedIn. We're so overloaded with "social" that it's becoming difficult to remember what it was like to actually engage in social activities. Interestingly, home brewing is extremely social and allows you to connect (or reconnect) with people old and new to your life.
Brewing at home lets you connect with your spouse if you're doing it together, with friends interested in getting involved, and with the larger brewing community as a whole. A simple trip to pick up a new fermenter or to check out the yeast strains available at the brewing equipment store puts you in direct contact with others who share your passion, allowing you to broaden your circle even farther. Even if none of them becomes your new best friend, there's a lot to be said for actually interacting with others without a computer screen and Internet connection standing in the way.
Exploring a Passion
How many times in life do you get to explore something that you're truly passionate about? Some people have history, while others have Scouts, or other interest groups. However, the large majority of people have no outlet for exploring something they're truly passionate about, and home brewing gives them that means.
Brewing is more about passion than pretty much anything else. It's an interesting combination of science experiment, history lesson, cooking practice and creative innovation, and passionate brewers will find that every step of the process (even frustrating failures) are far more enjoyable than many might think. There's much to be gained for following your passion.
The creative outlet offered here cannot be downplayed - it's just as much a craft as being able to build a cabinet out of wood or creating a new stone patio in your backyard. The craft is the reward itself for many people.
It's about Education
Another very interesting thing about home brewing that's not necessarily apparent until you've started is just how educational it really is. Of course, there are lessons in temperature control and cooking/boiling vessels, but depending on just how in-depth you get, there are lessons about roasting as well. On top of that, brewers learn about specific gravity, how various elements work together to create a whole and how various additives can change the finished product (fining with isinglass, for example).
One of the main reasons for home brewers getting started is finding a hobby that's moderately affordable. Brewing at home is actually far cheaper than many people think, particularly if you're able to be creative with your supplies or can buy secondhand. A starter kit can usually be had for $100 or less, and brewing a new batch of beer costs under $50 (depending on your ingredients and processes, of course). Compare that to other hobbies where dropping hundreds of dollars is necessary just to get your foot in the door. Paintball, for instance, requires a considerable investment upfront, even if you're purchasing used equipment. Even scrapbooking has a higher entry cost than home brewing.
It's Not Just Men
When you become involved in the world of home brewing, you'll find that one stereotype must be dismissed almost immediately. That is the thought that only men home brew. In reality, there are plenty of women involved. There are even women-specific forums, websites and support groups for female brewers. While home brewing does certainly have a higher percentage of male participants, the female component is growing as more and more women realize just how enjoyable making what they want can be.
Exploring Historic Roots
The ability to go back in time hasn't quite become a reality yet. That doesn't mean you can't get a glimpse into what the world was like centuries ago. Home brewing lets you explore any recipe you might find, from modern iterations to ancient classics. Whether you're a history buff yourself or just want to get a better feel for what our ancestors found so enjoyable about beer and other alcoholic beverages, brewing them at home is the way to go. From mead to Egyptian beer recipes and everything in between, home brew offers an immense connection to the past.
Learning an Art
Don't have an artistic bone in your body? Can't write a complete sentence to save your life? Unable to sew, craft, cook or paint? If you fall into any of those categories, don't fret. There's a way that you can have an art of your very own. Brewing at home is not so much a process as it is an art form - even the least talented brewer is engaging in art and creating something memorable outside themselves. Moreover, it's also a trade skill, something that can be put to use on your behalf in other areas if you so choose (no one says you have to quit your day job to become a craft brewer, though).
These are just a few of the reasons that people find themselves drawn to home brewing. The revolution is sweeping the country, too, as people find that they're able to produce beer just as good (and often better) than what they can pick up from the store. The simple ingredients, ease of brewing beer and ability to become part of a new community help ensure that this is no fad - it's a new way of life.
Dustin Canestorp is the Founder and General of the Beer Army. Join the ranks of the Beer Army at http://www.BeerArmy.com. Take a stand and let the world know your position. If you are going to drink, drink BEER!
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