I like beer. I don’t drink much in the way of wine. I’ve got a few bottles of scotch lying around the house, and I’ve been known to dabble in a cocktail or too, but nine times out of ten, on a Friday night I’m going to go looking for a beer to drink. I’m not sure why – my dad always drank beer, so that’s probably related to it – and I don’t exactly drink a lot of it these days, but I’ve always been interested in the history of beer-making too. It’s not just an alcoholic drink – it’s a historical and cultural experience. The words ‘social lubricant’ are often used to describe our consumption of alcohol, especially here in Australia, but I don’t think that speaks either to the specificity of beer in particular, nor to the rich and varied history of our cultural experience drinking it.
I could carry on about beer for quite a while, but better writers than I have already written widely on the subject. Try ‘Three Sheets to the Wind’ and ‘Man Walks into a Pub’ if you’re interested. What I do think is worth talking about is the actual brewing bit – and why it’s is good for your soul.
It’s an involved process making beer. Trust me on this. It’s a heady – and hoppy – mix of chemistry and cooking and a few other things before. It’s a job that requires attention to detail and methodical preparation. Learning to do it well – and it is learning – requires application of intelligence and a certain level of determination. All of these things are good in and of themselves, but there’s more to brewing.
Because after you make your beer, you pop it into the fermenter and then you wait. You might wait a week for it to finish fermenting, but then you’ll bottle it, and from there you’ll be waiting at least another four weeks before you’ve got something even worth drinking. Sometimes you’ll be waiting even longer. Making beer is an exercise in patience.
And that’s why it’s good for you. Patience is a long forgotten virtue in our modern, instant gratification world. Want to watch a movie? Buy it on iTunes. Want a book? Download it from Kindle. Want food? Order it from MenuLog and it’ll arrive at your door in 30 minutes. But you want to taste your own, home-brewed beer? There are no shortcuts. You’ll be waiting 6 weeks. Sure, you could go and buy some pretty bland tasting beer from Dan Murphy’s or somewhere else. But where’s the fun in that?
Coming soon: zen and the art of brewing beer.