Unenlightened Brewers

First off, I want to begin by apologizing to my readers. I don’t typically go on rants, but I feel the need to today.

I have spoken to more than a few home brewers over the past several months. I love how most brewers love to discuss the craft brew process, especially when they’re open to new ideas. During my talks, I began to pick up on a few conversations that really bugged me. At the time, I couldn’t figure out why. Then, last week it hit me.

When you deal with any sort of hobby, you have a spectrum of involvement that runs from the dabbler, to the obsessive. Brewing, as you can imagine, is no exception. On one end of the spectrum, you have the non technical/social brewer. On the other end, you have the obsessive brewing road warrior. Both of these extremes enjoy the hobby in their own way, to the level they feel comfortable with. Across the entire spectrum, no matter where the brewer falls, you will find a passion for beer, and for sharing with others.

What’s been bugging me is that there are times when you have a brewer, at the extreme end of the spectrum (either end) that ends up hurting the hobby more than helping.

Let me give you an example.

On the one side where we have the non-technical brewers. These are your social brewers who love nothing more than to brew so all their friends can gather and enjoy some beers with them. These brewers really help to spread the joy and fun of craft beer. There is no stress during the brew day. They are less concerned with the technical side of brewing, and more concerned with everyone just having a good time. I take no issue with these brewers whatsoever. HOWEVER, when you have the admittedly social brewer who begins to pass themselves off as a brewing expert, even though they really don’t know what they’re doing. They have a brew day, invite their buddies, have a few beers, and just have fun. Wait… we missed our mash temp, that’s okay. I forgot a hop addition, that’s cool. I’ll do it later. That’s just fine, until you are mentoring a new brewer who really wants to learn how to make GREAT BEER. Bad sanitation practices, poor beer handling pre-and post fermentation, etc. They are giving new brewers bad advice and technique and have such a poor understanding of brewing, that my fear is they’re driving people away from the hobby.

Here’s the thing… I’m not mad about the social group. They’re fun. They’re passionate about the craft and making sure everyone is having a good time. They help spread the fun and passion of craft beer. What I do have a problem with are those individuals passing themselves off as experts, and hurting the hobby. Taking impressionable brewers and teaching bad brewing techniques.

Let’s look at the other extreme.

This is the experienced homebrewer that DOES know what they’re doing… But resists changes on brewing science advances. These are the ones that are veterans of homebrew. Granted they have not updated their technique in 20 years, but they have good processes. Nothing wrong with these brewers either, until they aggressively belittle the new Brewer for a lack of experience, or they have the inability to embrace more modern brewing techniques they disagree with, because they’ve always done things a certain way.

Uncool from both ends of the spectrum.

Listen, I understand that everyone’s brewing processes are personal to them. It’s a labor of love. But your way is not the only way. Yes, there are definitely some good basics you should learn, for good brewing (cleaning and sanitation… looking at you social brewer) but just because you used bleach to sanitize 20 years ago does not mean sanitizers are bad (looking at you brewing road warriors).

Bottom line, if you are going to mentor and teach, be aware of the impact you’re having. Don’t share wrong info if you don’t know what you’re doing. Yes share the passion and respect, but not the poor habits. For the seasoned brewers, don’t be closed off to new brewing advancements or different methods. And don’t belittle new brewers. EVER.

Listen, guys. I do not have all the answers, nor am I always right. I humbly admit that. But be aware of your impact. Be aware of your influence. Be aware enough to admit that sometimes there is a better way, or a different way. That only makes the craft better and stronger.

Sorry for the rant, but I had to get that off my chest.

Until next time, my friends.


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