Along time ago everything we consumed we had made ourselves. And this included beer. When the ancient Egyptians found that their grain had turned into a pungent liquid that had a tendency to let you in on some pretty good feelings, beer was born and the rest of the world quickly followed.
Progress changed our relationship with food and drink. The Industrial Revolution had standardised products and alcohol (beer in particular) was not spared. In Ireland many, many years ago, 350 breweries lined the banks of the Liffey, transporting casks of stout, porter and ale into Dublin. Now there is only Guinness. In Belguim, beer is as close to a religion and the Trappists certainly kept brewing and grace together. But again, large conglomerates swallowed up the smaller ones and many fine beers were lost.
Within the last 15 years, thought, times have changed. When Alice Waters started the California cuisine movement, her idea was to use what was available locally, working with small farmers. This idea translated into the organic food movement, the slow food movement and the idea of regional cooking. And out this mindset, the craft beer movement was born.
Ironically, the movement started in the US. For years, Americans had been drinking Bud, Coors, and Miller, beers that were fine if you had no opinion, but when kids started traveling abroad to England, Germany, Belgium and the Czech Republic they tasted the golden, amber and sometimes deep brown elixir of a properly brewed beer.
Which brings me to the subject of this article: making your own beer. The great thing about beer is it’s easy to make, but you can dig as deep into as you want. Recently, I was at the International Craft Brewers and Distillers Convention in Dublin, Ireland, talking with the greats of the industry such as Pearse and Mark Lyons. Imagine my surprise when I became intrigued by the pernicious problem of premature flocculation!
Although I am a person who dives deep into my new projects, I certainly do so cautiously so I thought I have bought the idiot’s kit for brewing – A Cooper’s English Bitter Starters Kit, purchased from the Home Brew Shop.
Almost guaranteed to make a fine batch of ale, the kit has everything you would need – a vat with a tap, an easy-to-use can of pre-mixed ingredients, a specific gravity hydrometer (for measuring how much alcohol is in your little cask of joy), and 40 brown plastic bottles and caps.
For those who can’t wait to see what happens next, I just want you to know I have put the tin of pre-mixed ingredients, a bag of beer enhancer and some water at the precise temperature of 26˚C. The Krausen Kollar goes on. And we wait…