Photo Cred: Ian Steele
For this post, I thought I might give an inside look at what it really is to be the hands behind the beer. The thing about the craft beer industry is that it is so specifically driven by the hard work of the most passionate people on earth. No brewery has been successful simply by entering the marketspace; the people who make your beer love the craft and the product, and generally follow the old adage “do what you love and the money will follow.”
I can wholeheartedly attest to the stone-cold fact that brewing is messy, hard work. Mashing in (on a more rudimentary brew system) means dumping bucket after bucket of grain and stirring it as vigorously as your body will allow, while you stand over a 150 degree pot that’s making a steam-sweat solution inside the pores of your face. Mashing out involves shoveling hot, waterlogged grain out of the mash tun, scooping it into barrels or garbage cans, and wheeling them to the place where your rancher/farmer will pick them up so the brew is as low-waste as possible. Running a standard boil in the summertime means you better hope there’s a garage door in your brewhouse, otherwise you’ll be standing in an ultra-hot, steamy room with hundreds of gallons of boiling sugar water with no fresh airflow to cool you down.
Proper control of fermentation? That involves so many things- oxygen levels in your wort, temperature control, uninfected yeast pitch, and more. If your glycol system isn’t up to snuff, you’ll have one hell of a time getting your beer to ferment at the appropriate temperature without allowing for the formation of off-flavors. I have personally had to climb into a tiny crawl space and fix a leak in the glycol, which proved to be the easy part- the hard part was mixing water and glycol to the appropriate gravity to ensure that the glycol holds at appropriate temperatures, and doesn’t drop too rapidly OR too slowly.
The driving point here is that if your local brewer didn’t absolutely love beer with everything in them, then, quite frankly, they’re not your local brewer. The hands behind the beer are motivated by the literal blood, sweat and tears that go into making your favorite brew, and have an even greater love for a pint after a hard day’s work. The craft beer industry self-regulates in this way- nobody with a nonchalant attitude towards beer will find much enjoyment in the brew process. It’s dirty, it’s sweaty, and it forces ingenuity on the fly when everything starts to go wrong at once. If you find the opportunity, thank a brewer for all their hard work. If not, enjoying a frothy pint of the fruits of their labor should suffice.