I used to be a homebrewer.
I finally gave up the ghost and sold my brewery on Saturday, ending a 13 or so year run of brewing.
It all started in college. I was hanging around the beer snob set and quickly became one of them. As I the years rolled on, a few of the guys I hung around were making beer. It became a group effort. Sunday afternoons watching football and drinking homebrew. A LOT of homebrew. It was amazing!
Then I moved.
At graduation, our small but tight group split up and went our separate ways. Those guys are the main reason I occasionally feel like going back to Facebook, but that’s another deal altogether. Short story is that I all of a sudden found myself without homemade beer. It was also harder to find good microbrews where I landed. I took the leap and bought a kit of equipment, everything I’d need except a big boil pot and a heat source.
As I bounced around for a few years trying to settle in, I brewed. I brewed in apartments and small rental houses. I brewed in whatever kitchen I had. If you’ve ever been in a brewery, large or small, you know that smell, the smell of sugar and grain boiling, mingled with the flowery aroma of hops. I like that smell. Many people, my wife included, do not. The mess and burning sugar smell of a boil-over in a small kitchen isn’t very pleasant either. My wife was very patient.
Through the course of about 13 years, homebrewing traveled the arc of mental bandwidth. Kind of like dating someone new…or like Facebook… it started out strong. I was fully committed. I brewed whenever budget would allow, producing 2 cases+ a month. I told myself it was cheaper than buying that much craft beer. If you get into advanced equipment, crazy ingredients, and the value of your time, it really isn’t financially lucrative. That didn’t matter. I bought more equipment. I brewed as often as I could. Then I eventually found a homebrew club.
I thought I brewed lot. Boy was I wrong. I was brewing 5 gallons every 3 weeks or so. I met guys that brewed 10+ gallons every week. They knew so much about beer. Some were actually in the commercial brewing industry. I learned volumes on yeast, hops, different grains, what this or that additive will do to your beer, the timing of hop additions for bitterness flavor and aromas, alcohol levels, cold versus warm fermentation, lagers ales, porters, stouts, IPAs, flavoring during fermentation, flavoring at packaging, beer styles of the world, the history of beer….so much. Probably my favorite part of brewing, aside from the drinking, was formulating recipes, taking into account all of the items I listed above, plus some chemistry and math that really appealed to me, considering I’m a nerd. I was fully engaged, so to speak. I even discussed opening a full-on commercial micro-brewery with a guy I worked with who also brewed. That plan didn’t come to fruition. I think I’m glad it didn’t now that I look back.
I am passionate about beer. At least I was. Passions sometimes wane. The down slope of the arc came a few years ago. I had a friend that I shared some homebrew with. He said he had been interested in brewing for a while and made the plunge, bought an equipment kit, and we started brewing together. We shared equipment, hung out, and made some great beer. He pushed me into making cider, something I’d wanted to do, but never did for reasons I don’t even know. A couple of years went by. We started alternating brewing sites. At some point I can’t even remember I stopped enjoying the process. It became something I did because I did it, not because I liked it anymore. Then, my friend moved. This was around Christmas a couple of years ago. My patient wife had given me a beer kit for Christmas that year. New Years day I brewed it by myself. That was the last time I rattled a kettle.
I wasn’t sure why I didn’t want the brew anymore. It could be that, with a wife and 3 kids, it’s hard to justify sitting around for 6 hours by myself watching sugar water boil. Or maybe the fact that I realized that I was drinking A LOT of beer, not just homebrew, and I wanted to cut back. Or possibly that it became, for whatever reason, just not fun anymore.
Whatever the reason may have been, I stopped. 13 years of accumulated equipment, cleaners, and even some small amounts of leftover ingredients (yuck) were left to gather dust. Every time I would go into my garage, I’d see it there. I kept thinking, “I need to brew again,” but it didn’t happen. I’ve made some changes to my lifestyle in that time too. If I started brewing again, in my mind I would have to revert back to the way I was before. Maybe not completely, but I’m not willing to risk losing the gains I’ve made to go back to something that I don’t completely enjoy any more.
Craigslist to the rescue
I bought some new exercise equipment. My son started lifting and we found a used bench and weights. After I brought it home, I discovered that a workbench, weight bench, motorcycle, hanging heavy bag and my wife’s SUV, along with lawn equipment and all the other sundry effects that can be found in a typical garage, don’t fit. My wife refused to give up the real estate that her car was taking up. Actually, she didn’t refuse, I was smart enough not to ask. The motorcycle…I think NOT. That baby is garage-kept. Something had to go.
There in the corner was…the brewery. My collection of equipment that had been, at one time, my favorite thing to do. My time was done. It had to go. I put it on Craigslist. It stayed there almost a week. Then I got a message from a couple of guys who were interested. They came out Saturday morning and picked it up. Two brothers who, as they talked the talk, were probably as advanced in brewing as I had ever been, and were looking for ways to beef up what they were already doing.
I’m glad that everything will be put to use. I actually did take care of my equipment, except for all those hydrometers that seemed to break at the worst time. The worst thing I could think of was trashing everything. These guys took everything. Even my collection of bottles. I thought I’d be sorry to see it all go. I really wasn’t.
It was done. The garage organized. Wife happy. I went on to head out of town that afternoon to watch a fighter friend of mine fight (and win) at the World Series of Fighting event in Tampa, and drive back home behind the wheel of the most expensive sports car I’ve ever had my butt cheeks in. In all, it was an incredibly satisfying day.
It doesn’t change the fact that I’m a quitter, but I’m OK with that. Sometimes you have to let go of one thing to make room for something better.