Before I came to BYO in 2007, I was not a homebrewer. I was more of a beer drinker — and really, isn't that how most of us got into the hobby? First you drink beer, then you want to learn how to make it yourself. But if I'm really being honest, I came to the hobby of homebrewing much less organically than most BYO readers. I learned to brew because it was my job. Before I came to BYO I was a culinary school graduate and former sous chef, a "foodie" and later a journalism student, but I had never made beer before. I know — boo hoo for me, I was paid to learn to homebrew — I can feel your sympathy flowing in from all directions. As awesome as it is to get paid to homebrew, however — and believe me, it's pretty awesome — I did miss out on the fun of getting into homebrewing the way that a lot of homebrewers do it: just for fun.
We brew pretty regularly at BYO headquarters here in Manchester, Vermont. And our brew days are definitely fun (it's tough to complain about picking hops and brewing on the clock) — however, it's rare that we brew just to brew. And it's even more rare that I get to pick what we brew. A lot of times we brew to create photographs for a feature story, or some shots of a specific technique. In fact, the last time we brewed was to take shots for Dave Green's story in the Jan-Feb 2014 issue about pre-boil hopping. This kind of brew day means that there's always a guy with a camera over your shoulder, or the Art Director, telling you what you need to do to get the shot. It's not unusual to hear someone in your ear asking you to, "Turn the paddle this way. Take a step back. Let's do that hops thing again. And again. And one more time. Slow down. Ok, let's try it from a different angle." It's fun to brew this way because it's exciting to create the images and stories that go into BYO. But brewing with a camera on you is not the same as getting together with friends on the weekend and brewing whatever you want whenever you want.
(To the left...no the right...the other right....now stir.)
So I should just brew at home, right? Well, I've hung around the homebrewery of BYO's most prolific homebrewer, Dave Green, while he's brewed a few times, but I'm not one to jump in on someone else's turf. And unfortunately I really don't have the space to brew the way I'd like to brew where I live. I know that there are a lot of really cool small-space brewing setups — it's my job to look for cool homebrew setups all over the Internet — I have just never found one that was quite right for my small-and-primitive apartment with no yard, basement or storage (there is still stuff in boxes from moving in two years ago — never move into an apartment just because of the hardwood floors alone). Plus, I didn't really want to brew by myself. So when my friend and nearby neighbor Dan asked me if I wanted to start homebrewing with him in his finished basement recently, I jumped at the chance....