Pale Ale

Homebrewing is a fast growing hobby, especially here in South Africa. Maybe you’ve decided to try your hand at brewing, so it would be a good idea to look at good and bad reasons to become a homebrewer. After all, this can turn into a bit of an obsession!


As a psychologist and homebrewer, I’ve often contemplated the deeper, darker motivations that make people decide to occupy their time with a hobby (not really, but it sounded good!). Each brewer brings a unique motivation to the hobby, and here are a few to guide you along (or away!)

5 Good motivations for the Beginner Brewer:

 The Mad Scientist

You like experimenting with chemicals in your basement, and now want to drink them. Seriously though, if you’ve always been intrigued by the science of beverages and cooking and so on, homebrewing could just be the match made in heaven. It’s got way more scientific depth than cooking (I cringe to think of the reaction some of the molecular gastronomic geniuses are going to have at that one. Sorry Heston) and will keep you engaged for years, nay decades.

The Chef

Now that we’re on the topic of cooking, if you’re into food and drink, and want to extend your culinary skills, beer making is not a bad way of doing that. Just like mastering advanced cooking methods, brewing allows for a gradual increase in complexity, mastery and general enjoyment through skill. 

The average competitive streak most chef-like people have will also stand you in good stead when you take part in homebrewing competitions (but please leave your chef’s knife at home for these).

The Beer Geek

You’ve visited the microbreweries, you know what an IBU is, and can wax lyrical about the differences between dry hopped and regular hopped beers. In fact, you probably have a tap system installed at home already, you lucky duck.

Beer geeks almost naturally drift into beer making sooner or later. Just beware your one key vulnerability: thinking that because the big boys (i.e. commercial craft brewers) do something, you have to do the same at home. You don’t.

On the other hand, beer geeks often have a ready supply of free yeast and other goodies they can get from their commercial buddies, so that’s not bad.

The Beer Engineer

You like crafting machinery and gadgets at home, and don’t mind a few pints while you’re at it. A hefty percentage of commercial brewers come from an engineering background, and it’s not surprising. Brewing equipment can be complex and require regular maintenance (often using delicate instruments like a five-pound hammer).

Beer engineers are great to have around when you want to customize your mash tun, kegerator, or invent something that will have other homebrewers stare at you with dangerous envy.

The Beernaut

You want to explore the limits of beer, from obscure Belgian lambics to recreating ancient Sumerian ales. Beer is an ancient, magnificent beverage. In fact, apart from mead, beer is likely the most ancient alcoholic beverage known to our species. So, it presents limitless possibilities for brewers who have a streak of history professor in them. 

Alternatively, if you want to push boundaries and create a little history of your own, brewing beer is a good investment as well. Don’t let the outdated (and largely commercially-inspired) Rheinheitsgebot fool you. There are really no limits to what can be put into beer. Experimentation is key!

5 Bad motivations for the Beginner Brewer:

 The Boozer
You think that homebrewing guarantees an unlimited supply of cheap booze. That is not really true (see the Cheapskate below). Also, brewing beer and drinking beer are often better left as separate activities.
 
There is an inverse correlation between the number of beers you consume during brewing and the quality of the beer that session is likely to produce.
 
The Cheapskate
You want to pay less for mass-produced fizzy yellow beer by making your own.
 
While potentially true, making your own beer might not turn out cheaper than buying equivalent craft beer. The reason: economies of scale. You’re simply going to be paying more for your ingredients than a commercial brewer who’ll be buying massive quantities.
 
Also, because you’re making smaller volumes of beer, it opens up the possibility of using some truly, spectacularly expensive ingredients which the average commercial craft brewer would think twice about. And that’s kinda fun.
 
The Bathroom Brewer
You think that homebrewing is a fun alternative use for your bathtub and believe that good hygiene is for “sissies”.
 
This is not so much a motivation as a general disposition. Brewing requires very meticulous attention to detail and an affinity for clean working practices. If you’re not that way inclined, brewing will likely frustrate you.
 
The Beer Snob

The Beer Snob is the opposite of the beer geek. While beer geeks revel in all that is craft beer, beer snobs see it as a way of proving their own inherent superiority over others. If that’s your attitude, then homebrewing is going to be a long, lonely road.

Homebrewers are a great community of hobbyists. I’ve really hardly ever come across homebrewers who are not willing to help out, celebrate successes, and commiserate over failures at the drop of a hat. Being a snobby snob-fart ain’t that. So stay away from my hobby, please.

 

The Job Seeker
You think that homebrewing will lead to fame and fortune as a professional brewer. (Well, sometimes, it might, but that shouldn’t be your only reason). Of course, many commercial craft brewers started out as homebrewers. So, all-in-all, this is not such a bad motivation to start out with.
 
My only warning would be: don’t rush it! In your desperation to start your own craft brewery before all the good spots have been taken, you may skip essential learning and risk never picking up the basic practices of good brewing technique.
 
{Picture  by  mfajardo CC BY 2.0}