I brewed my first beer from a kit in 1982. I can still recall the bright yellow garbage can we used as a fermentor (food grade? What’s that?). Like so many new home brewers, my motivation for beer making at the time was purely budgetary. As a young student I needed a cheap, reliable, and ample supply of beer–regardless of quality–and home brewing met that need. In the early days my ‘home brew’ tasted like . . . well . . . home brew, which eventually became my new motivation for making better beer.
Beer kits soon gave way to malt extracts, where I could tap into my creative side by adding specialty grains, hops, and myriad adjuncts to the wort. And the beer got better. As soon as I discovered that replacing corn sugar with malt extract eliminated that ‘home brew’ flavour, I realized that it was possible to make not only good beer, but great beer, at home. Then, in 1993, I made my first all-grain batch–and that’s when I knew that anything was possible.
For a while, the beers got strange, sporting names like Weevil Ale (yes, weevils were an accidental ingredient), Bock-226 (the water came from a radioactive spring in the uranium district of northeastern Ontario), Apple Spruce Ginger Ale (using new growths from spruce trees), Blueberry-Maple Coffee Stout (a.k.a. ‘Good Time Breakfast Elixer’), and my personal favourite, Anomalocaris Ale (because it was weird). Basically, if it wasn’t rotten and it wasn’t tied down, it got thrown into the beer. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. But mostly it worked.
There was a time when I wouldn’t leave home without a portable yeast harvesting kit, which allowed me to harvest yeast from any bottle-conditioned beer so that I could add it to my growing yeast library. Hops took over my back yard, where they continue to grow to this day. Carboys full of meads and wines began to appear among my ales and lagers. Our growing bottle collection was eventually replaced by kegs. We hosted monthly beer tastings for all our home brewing friends. Those were the days!
And then life happened.
The story is a familiar one. Work and family life got busy and priorities changed. During our peak brewing days, we involved the whole family; the kids crushed the grains, while my wife loved to rack and bottle. Our family bonded over our craft. But then with sports, clubs, school trips, house maintenance, growing expectations at work, it all just suddenly stopped. The years clicked by and now we’re here.
The kids have grown and our hair has turned grey. We have moved several times since those glory days. With each move we renew our commitment to ‘start back up again,’ to ‘pick up where we left off,’ because we can. But it never seems to happen. Until now.
This blog will document our new adventures in home brewing, as we rekindle our passion for the pursuit of a perfect pint.