A famous George Carlin quote goes something like ” …Hobbies cost money…interests are free”
I can see the truth in that. My hobby these days is Homebrewing. The fact that it is definitely not free means that according to (the late) Mr. Carlin it is not an “interest” . To make a 5 gal batch of beer the material costs are anywhere from 15-50$ depending on what style is produced and what, if any ingredients you can use that you don’t need to purchase every time. Yeast for example, which technically I think can be considered more a catalyst than an ingredient.
Last month I was involved in a homebrew competition called Iron Brewer. The unique features of this particular competition is that the organizer calls out 3 somewhat unrelated ingredients and it is up to the contestant to make a beer, of any style he or shoe whats, that showcases these special ingredients and still makes up a drinkable beverage. I participated in round 4 of 6 and was tasked with using a type of malted barley called acidulated malt, a kind of ops called Strisslespalt, and also something called brewer’s licorice. I went with a style called a Baltic Porter with is typically a rather strong, slightly sweet dark beer, and is a style that I happen to like very much I figured the Licorice would go fairly well and the hops and malt I had to use could be incorporated and still be something that I would not mind drinking 4-5 gallons of over the next couple months. It turned out fairly well, and got good comments from the other contestants (we each shipped samples to every other participant and reviewed them all together during an hour- long Skype session.
As it turns out, I know personally 4 other Home-brewers that were also involved in other rounds of this same competition, and traditionally, we have gotten together and shared with these other people samples that were in the round we participated in. Tonight we got together and all tried submissions from Rd. 4, the one that myself and another Boise area HBer were in. A few decent beers and a couple quite good ones were tried and discussed a bit. Then, another individual that was also in rd 4 with me brought out several of his own beers he had made over the last year or so. A couple of dry Apple Ciders, one with Raspberry Liquor added, a Fresh Hop IPA, a Black IPA, and a couple others. They were all great and it was a great time, sipping and discussing, and critiquing each one. It was an interesting, entertaining, and edifying experiance.
My contribution was one of the last bottles of an Imperial Stout I had made in the spring of 2007. 3 Years ago. It was 12.7% ABV and in my opinion too sweet, under-carbonated and while a fun experiment back when I made it, not particularly good. Somehow after sitting in the bottle for a few years the flavors had really blended together and turned out to be a pretty big hit at our little meeting. It was encouraging to get positive feedback and I am more motivated than ever to make something like it again. As I recall it was 30# of barley and it completely filled my mash tun.
During our homebrew discussions, we also touched on what is called a “Solera” project. In this case, several home brewers get together and make a simple “base” beer of very similar recipes, and combine then into a full sized 50-60gal oak barrel, typically used previously for aging wine. The barrel is then “inoculated” with special micro-organisms that sour the beer. Ever 6 months or year or so, a small portion, 5 or maybe 10 gallons is racked out and then immediately replaced by fresh “base” beer again to top it off, The cycle is repeated indefinitely and a yearly supply of oak aged sour beer is produced. these mini batches that come out can them be blended with older or newer portions or have fruit added to them and generally be used an an experimental base for many other types of sour beer. The trick is to find a barrel, which we have, and then to coordinate a time when we all bring our beer to fill it up with. Hopefully we can get this going soon. There a re a few good sites/blogs that talk about this.