A couple of months ago, I was sifting through my Twitter feed and came across a gag from New Zealand comic Ben Hurley. The butt of the joke (and it wasn’t a bad one) was the growing popularity of ‘craft’ beer – with Hurley comparing the trend to the heady days of Kit-and-Kilo homebrewing, when good beer was laundry-brewed and blindness-inducing.
Because I’m a moron, Hurley’s tweet really got under my skin. (I have a tendency to dwell where others move on – and thus would make a terrible bank robber.) It wasn’t the gag per se that etched at me – but rather the valuable insight it provided into popular opinion on homebrewing. I eventually arrived (late, as usual) at a realisation: that a stark disconnect exists between the accepted dogma and actual modern-day reality of homebrewing in New Zealand.
Look – anyone can rock up to Pak ‘n Save, grab their Kit-and-Kilo and within the hour have a tub of Coopers Pale Ale (or an approximation thereof) fermenting in the cupboard. But that’s not homebrewing; that’s homefermenting. The difference between the former and the latter is cavernous – one has infinite possibilities for creative riffing, and could genuinely result in a delicious brew that rivals anything that can be bought at a bottlestore or craft beer bar; the other is an utterly-soulless creative vacuum designed to get you pissed for less dosh.
While the difference between the two may be blatant to the discerning (or, in my case, not-so-discerning) Beer Geek, in my experience they are interchangeable to the common Beer Muggle (a term
stolen borrowed from George Langlands, and used here with screeds of affection). And because I take everything too seriously, I’m pretty sure this disconnect between Geek and Muggle is giving me a stomach ulcer.
To more or less copy-and-paste a point from my last Beer Money Blog post, I also reckon homebrewing has an ill-deserved reputation as a selfish endeavour – think: Hurley’s Grandfather sitting alone in the laundry – when in reality, collaboration with friends and family on recipes and brew days is an excellent excuse to build (and maintain) relationships over a common interest.
To that end, I’ve decided that my follow-up to the Beer Money Blog will be another crusade-of-sorts; to shine a light, however dim, on just how damned-good homebrewing can be – as both a creative-outlet-with-benefits and an Über-effective maintenance programme for those human connections that keep us from the edge of the cliff.
So here’s the plan: firstly, from a standing-start I’m going to learn how to all-grain brew. I’ll put my own kit together on a tight budget – which is inevitably going to be hilarious, since anyone who knows me (particularly my Form 2 metalwork teacher Mr Nisbet) knows that I am without exception completely rubbish at anything that requires a) precision, b) patience or c) some combination of the two.
Once the kit is up-and-running, I’ll invariably need some help perfecting my brewing technique – and will seek it from brewers (professional and amateur alike) that many of you will know and love. Most (if not all) of these folk are likely to say Who-The-F**k-Are-You and decline to be involved – which will also make for hilariously good blog-fodder.
And then we get to the really fun bit – I’m going to connect with those around me who have embarked on their own trek up to Camp Beer Geek (and even some who are yet to depart Camp Beer Muggle), and together we’ll create the concept for a beer, design a recipe and then brew it together. My four-year-old daughter has already riffed-up the first concept – and it inevitably involves chocolate malt.
Every project needs a big finale – and this one has a hum-dinger. To cap this thing off, I’m going to enter all the collaborative beers in the 2014 National Homebrew Competition, which is happening at the end of October. It’s a Win-Win situation: if the beers are all judged to be crap, it’ll be very funny and an opportunity for ceaseless self-deprecation; but on the other hand, maybe – just maybe – we’ll grab a medal or two.
(But I doubt it.)
So there it is – the concept for the difficult second album, laid-to-bare. It’s certainly going to be a challenge – but since when was the worthwhile easy?
Twitter: @jasegurney | Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/brewhui