The HomeBrew Quest that wasn’t


I know that if I were in 1st grade today I would be clinically diagnosed as ADHD…and possibly heavily medicated.  I believe this to be true and so I’m thankful that I did not grow up in this generation of over-medicating people who are naturally curious and possibly over-enthusiastic about EVERYTHING.

I have been this way all of my life which could partly explain why many years ago one of my university professors referred to me as a “diamond in the rough”and suggested I join a gym or always try to find activities to engage my brain and body so as not to “overwhelm” future bosses, co-workers and even strangers on the street.

I took his advice and over the past 20 years have found myself in hiking clubs, bowling leagues, volunteering backstage on theater productions and well, anything that would keep me physically and mentally occupied.

The problem I had when I moved to Venezuela is that there were many physical, economic and political situations here that somewhat stymied my ability to find continuous, gainful activities that would keep my natural “exuberance” in check.  After paragliding, skydiving, canyoning, rafting and hiking through most of Venezuela I decided I should try to find an activity that might keep me occupied in my home, build closer connections with my co-workers and cost a little less money.  There was also the recommendation from my daughters to put a lid on the extreme sports for a bit before I got hurt.  “Mom, think of your grandkids!”

So began my hunt for activities that might be pleasant, group orientated and somewhat intellectual. One day while leaving work I noticed a group of guys hanging around a desk  smelling, tasting and commenting on a variety of beers.  I typically don’t ask to join groups but rather assume I am welcome if I am not asked to leave.  So as I stood there listening in I was eventually asked if I wanted to try some of the home brewed beer and thus found out that we had a home brew club that would meet every so often to sample the product of their labors.

I LOVED THIS IDEA.  The beginnings of a hobby had been found.  Seriously, good beer is hard to find in Venezuela and though I actually wasn’t much of a beer drinker the entire process intrigued me and the beer samples were mighty tasty.  Not only that but I wasn’t asked to leave.  So over the course of a few weeks or possibly months, I’m very unfocused when it comes to issues of time, numbers and chemistry, I began to ask more questions and offer insights to the beers I was drinking rather than just sample the beers quietly then leave.

A little about myself.  When I become involved in a hobby I become extremely involved.  I will buy every piece of equipment, clothing, and/or accessory associated with whatever it is I decide to do.  To ensure my success in whatever endeavor or hobby I decide to join, I will study the processes and all angles of the hobby to ensure I understand what it is I have gotten myself into.  This is part of my ADHD/OCD personality complex that I can’t seem to shake.

I began reading blogs like  “Drink UP” , “Yet again booze: the brewing workout!” , “Brew Dudes”  and “The Mad Fermentationist All of the articles and hundreds more made me even more excited to get started.  Aside from the very cool names, the articles described some of the trials and tribulations of home brewing but being an optimist I focused on the tribulations and being able to be a part of a club that I wouldn’t actually be kicked out of.  I also researched online brewing academies.

I finally took the leap and asked one of the “brewmasters” what I would need to do to get started in this amazing brewing process.  He sent me links to some of his favorite online brew accessory stores and explained what I would need to buy to start a small brewing station in my home.  He even offered to lend me a few of the items so I would not be out too much money if I decided I didn’t like brewing.  He mentioned I should probably begin with a “starter kit”.  It was inexpensive and would provide me with exactly what I needed to begin.

I went to the online store and began filling my online shopping cart with all of the necessary items to be able to brew a few different types of beers.  As mentioned earlier, I like to go big.  Why start with a boring starter kit.  That would be silly.  I KNOW that I will love doing this.  How could I not.  So many friends doing the same thing. The BONDING.  OMG THE BONDING.  By this time I really decided I LOVED beer.  I loved sampling the varieties that others offered up and I LOVED the BONDING!! I was a part of something interesting and big.  So I continued to fill my cart.  After about 2 hours I realized that if I clicked “proceed to checkout” I would be owning approximately $3,000 worth of hops, yeast, capper machines, hoses, sterilizers, bottles, caps and wheats.  I wasn’t quite sure how they all went together so I added a brewing book.

My finger paused over the “proceed” button as my mind drifted back to other exciting new hobbies I had attached myself to:  Crochet – 8 big tubs of yarn still sitting in my storage shed back in Washington; Bowling – very cool bag with some wacky shoes and a giant ball that’s too heavy sitting next to the tubs of yarn; skiing – long skis next to short skis next to 2 different types of skiing outfits and handwarmers; snorkeling – goggles, flippers.. and well, on the list goes.  It’s not that I didn’t participate in each activity with vigor.. it’s just that the obsessions lasted between 6 months and a few years.  Beer was clearly a commitment both with people and love of beer and obviously could be extremely expensive.

So I put my shopping cart in the barn and decided to try to gain some experience through the work of others.  My neighbor had just started brewing and so I would occasionally go to his house and help him brew and bottle.  Possibly it was due to the inexperience of my beer mentor or the disorganization and quasi-messy nature of his technique or possibly it was due to his decision not to chart each step a little more specifically and his occasional expletive for forgetting a step and needing to re-do a specific step or possibly because I realized that brewing 24 bottles was much more work then just visiting other brewmaster’s homes and drinking their endeavors with no actual work involved or EVEN waiting to go back to the states and drinking all of the store bought beer I wanted.. I decided to keep my shopping cart in the barn.

I have not given up on my home beer brewing dream but I realized that I can’t make that kind of commitment until I am absolutely sure there are no other beer options available.  I do not consider this hoppy hobby an epic fail.  I merely consider it a hobby post-poned until I can wrap my head round the time, number and chemistry conundrum.

Best Beer Blogs – 

Best beer by StatePeople’s Choice – Unexpected WoW

Couple of my favorite beer joints –

Brickyard Pub  11130 Magnolia Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91601  (818) 505-0460

Beer Authority    300 W 40th St   New York, NY 10018   (212) 510-8415

Suggested by others

Kraftwork Bar   541 East Girard Avenue   Philadelphia, PA 19125 (215) 739-1700

Local 44  4333 Spruce St  Philadelphia, PA 19104  (215) 222-BEER

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