With the end of summer approaching, I’ll soon be in my basement digging out my big kettle, some five gallon buckets, and a giant spoon. That’s right, it’s homebrewing season again, which means it’s time to start thinking about homemade beer.
Admittedly, autumn isn’t the only season for homebrewing, as all of the seasons offer their own unique styles worth trying. However, I have a romantic vision of Belgian peasants of yore brewing their famous saison style during the fall harvest (only the rich could afford to brew at any other time), and so I’ve decided to follow suit by only brewing in the fall (not to mention it’s far more pleasant standing over a hot kettle in the cooler months than during the summer, and some of my favorite ingredient components, such as fresh pumpkins, are readily available at this time). This year I’ll even be brewing with some of my own harvest thanks to a neat book called The Homebrewer’s Garden.
When people find out that I’m a homebrewer, the first thing they usually ask is, “How hard is it to homebrew?” I respond with, “Well, it’s really very simple.” You can get started with a fairly low initial investment (around $150-$200) at your local or online brewing supply store, and by reading some good homebrewing guides:
The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian – Hombrewing is practically synonymous with the name Charlie Papazian. Papazian writes good introductory homebrewing guides and provides us with the infinite wisdom of his famous motto, “relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew.”
Dave Miller’s Homebrewing Guide: Everything You Need to Know to Make Great Tasting Beer by Dave Miller – Dave Miller’s guide offers slightly more advanced techniques than Papazian’s, so I recommend it for intermediate to advanced homebrewers.
Extreme Brewing: An Enthusiast’s Guide to Brewing Craft Beer at Home by Sam Calagione – Sam Calagione is the founder of Dogfish Head, one of the biggest and most interesting microbreweries in the United States. Calagione is famous for his off-the-wall beer styles, and this book provides guidance on how to make clone versions of his beers, as well as advice on making your own “extreme” homebrews.
Brew Chem 101 by Lee W. Janson – If you really want to get serious about your homebrewing, or maybe even become a professional brewer, you’ll need to study some chemistry so you understand the chemical complexities of the brewing process. This will also allow you to truly fine-tune your brewing.
If you find that you really like homebrewing, you might consider joining a homebrewing club, such as TRUB (Three Rivers Underground Brewers) or TRASH (Three Rivers Alliance of Serious Homebrewers). After awhile, your homebrew might even be good enough to win metals at a homebrew competition.
And remember, not only do librarians know a lot about books, we’re also great taste testers.