How to Make Beer: Our Family Discovers the Lost Art of Home-Brewing
December 4, 2011 - 1:20 am
The subject of home brewing keeps popping up everywhere I look. Maybe it’s because I’ve recently started making my own beer and so it’s in the front of my brain, or maybe it’s because tone-deaf bureaucrats keep hiking taxes on liquor. (Like the one that just passed in Illinois increasing the tax by 50% on all alcohol sales.) Either way, the art of home brewing is intriguing, easier than expected, and produces extremely satisfying results while saving hundreds of dollars on your liquor budget.
Mr. Fox and I are always on the lookout for activities we can enjoy together that also help us become more self-sufficient. Since we are opposites — like most happy couples — such good ideas can be few and far between. One we have in common is our admiration for beer, both for what it symbolizes (Friday night) and the good cheer it brings to our lives. We heartily believe, like Ben Franklin, that beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. As we’ve grown up together (from our early twenties) we’ve begun to also enjoy anything that is truly “counterculture.” Whenever The Man tells us to like something, we automatically resist. When the beer commercials with the sweaty co-eds hawk tasteless beer in gimmicky cans that change color according to temperature –really? you need a blue stripe to tell you if your beer is cold enough? — we know we’re being sold something that needs a whole lot of hoopla to move it off the grocery shelves.
But when we were younger and more affected by advertising we succumbed to the popular belief that the only beer to drink was highly-marketed, light-colored, pilsener-lager sold everywhere in easily recognizable, brightly colored packaging. (Not that there’s anything wrong with a light pilsener which can be highly refreshing on a hot summer’s day!) The point is, there’s a big beer world out there that popular American culture knows nothing about.
Appreciating the many types of beer comes much the same way as appreciating wine. After graduating from the “sloe gin fizz with extra cherries” stage of drinking, I began to sample wines. I’ll never forget the evening I had an excellent Cabernet from Stags’ Leap Winery with fine French cuisine that forever changed my mind. From then on I understood the important difference between pink wine-in-a-box and complex, layered vino. The same happened when Mr. Fox and I started sampling home-brew made by friends. A whole new world of flavors and possibilities were revealed to us in unmarked, humble brown bottles.