I have always interested in brewing but didn't try it myself until I started my first job and had plenty of room for the experiment. I started with cans of malt extract and hops extract. The result was drinkable but had a slight cooked or scalded taste. I gradually progressed to more elaborate concoctions until I was buying whole grain malt and cracking it myself with a hand operated corn mill. There were a few flops along the way. Once I inadvertantly made a light beer by using twice the called for water (I boiled the wort but didn't boil it down). But the results became better and better and the time consumed less and less. My specialties were German style wheat beer and English Pale Ale, both of which were hard to come by in stores at the time. I once calculated that on a material cost basis my beer cost me $0.23 a bottle, but if I paid myself minimum wage for the time I spend brewing and bottling, the price would be about the same as buying imported beer at the supermarket. It was a fun hobby. Chemistry in action. And there's nothing like the steady glugging of a fermenting tank to lull you to sleep at night.
When a friend of mine heard I was a homebrewer he told me that he and his roommate tried making a batch in their college dorm room using a plastic garbage pail as a fermenter. The result came out green and the taste was underwhelming. "Was it ever nasty!" he said. I asked how long he aged the beer. Blank stare. "Age? We drank it the next day." Considering my friend's equipment, aging was probably the least of his problems, but since fermentation generally takes 3-6 days, he was probably drinking green beer in more ways than one.
Thanks for the invite Mark! This is a great topic for the ACS Network.
I got started during my third year at university. A housemate had taken on the responsibility of brewing up the beer for the annual biology club spring party. I volunteered to help with the boil and the bottling and have been hooked ever since. Hard to believe that was almost twenty years ago. Ten years ago I moved from Seattle to Germany and now live in the Netherlands. I was amazed that so many of the ingredients that I could find in the US weren't available at the time in Europe. At least not that I could find. Since I didn't bring any of my equipment with me I replaced it all by ordering from American suppliers. Shipping => Ouch!! These days the brewery is fully stocked. Still brewing only from extract with the occasional mini-mash and very pleased with the results. Now I just wish that Europe would catch onto the great beer that is being brewed by the American micros. I can occasionally find a bottle of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale but that is about it. Every issue of Zymurgy leaves me longing to catch the next plane to Seattle to sample the beers I have just read about. Choices, eh?
Hi folks! Like many others, I got interested in brewing by drinking beer. As a grad student, my wife gave me a copy of "The Complete Joy of Homebrewing", and a couple of my buddies and I started up. It continued through a postdoc, and at this point, through my tenure as a professor at Linfield (just south of Beervana...). It also led to my best idea for a course ever - The Art and Science of Brewing. A non-major's upper division science course.
Great thread Mark,
I got started as an undergraduate student at University of Illinois. Several of my friends brewed and I interned one summer at a small brewery in Wisconsin. I learned quite a bit about the process and quality checks before, during, and after fermentation. I have been making small batches periodically, and I have moved from pure extract brewing to partial mash brews. I find adding the partial mash to the process adds signficant flavor and body to the beer. American pale ales are by far the easiest for me to make and keep fresh for the longest period of time.
I haven't actually started, but my son-in-law brewed some great beer several years ago. He's always been interested in beer, but the only time i heard him be interested in chemistry was when I told him of the ACS webinar and home brewing group! I missed the webinar: it was full, but I started viewing the webinar and hope to have time to finish it soon. I also hope my son-in-law and I can form a successful beer partnership! His wife (my daughter) doesn't mind the smells of brewing beer!
My dad and I brewed many years ago before liquid yeast became prevalent. Most of his batches all tasted the same. He drifted away from the hobby when really good beer became more commercially available (think Goose Island, Two Brothers, Sierra Nevada, etc) and I moved out. Then four years ago the microbiologist in our lab left a Northern Brewer catalog on my desk. She said her husband had enough hobbies and didn't even want him to see that catalog! That resparked my interest. Just as I was about to purchase the equipment, my dad said he would give me everything he had (saving me hundreds $). Thirty-some batches later, I always try to have three on tap (and a soda for the kids). I've started some more advanced techniques like decoction mashes for German lagers and have been entering competitions to get some really good feedback. At my current employer, there are about five of us that regularly discuss the hobby and try to get together and sample (always the best part!).
I've entered the Drunk Monk Challenge in suburban Chicago: http://www.knaves.org/DMC/index.htm
Schooner in Kenosha, WI: http://www.theschooner.org/
and Wizard of Saaz in Akron, OH: http://hbd.org/saaz/wos_rules.html
I also entered the Geauga County Fair where I live but did not get any feedback, unfortunately.