The Session #71 – Brewers and Drinkers

the_sessionWell, December seemingly went rather quickly. It seems like just last week I was reading everyone’s musings on the subject of hype. Here are yet again, on the first Friday of the month, and time for another edition of The Session, this month hosted by John of Home Brew Manual.

For his Session, John asks about the relationship between brewers and drinking, and how knowledge of the processes that go into making a pint can affect the enjoyment of it.

I’ve enjoyed beer for around eight to nine years now. I started enjoying ales at The Giddy Bridge in Southampton during a three hour break at Uni on a Monday. The Giddy Bridge is a Wetherspoon’s pub, so the beer and food was relatively cheap compared to other places, and the beer selection was more appealing too.

My years of drinking at The Giddy Bridge were done with relatively little knowledge, however they did contribute to developing tastes. I still much prefer porters and stouts, though I wonder if this was in some way influenced by the beers I drank early on.

Between Uni and moving to London, my beer drinking would come from supermarkets and traveling to breweries to pick up beer in plastic containers of various shapes and sizes. At this point I was still predominately drinking English ales, though I had encountered Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale, which opened my eyes to a world of American beers beyond the mainstream lagers available in the supermarkets.

It wasn’t until moving to London, and discovering bars like The Rake, Cask and The Euston Tap, that my drinking really began to expand. With that expansion in drinking came the start of this blog, which has changed the way I look at beer. Rather than just enjoy a beer, and either get or not get the aroma and taste, I now try to figure out what they are.

It’s probably a combination of drinking, blogging, and following numerous home brewers on Twitter that led me to starting last year. Foolishly, I decided that what I wanted to brew first was a lager. I was fully aware that a standard ale would perhaps be a much more simple recipe to begin with, and wouldn’t require the lagering period, or the use of the fridge, however lager is what I began with.

It didn’t go well. One person who has tried it said it was okay, and reminded them of a pale ale. The aroma is okay, yet too many hops went in too early, and as a result it’s far too bitter.

My second brew, a smoked porter hopped with Bramling Cross, was a happy accident. I was aiming for a 5% porter, and wanted more than my 8.5 litre pot will allow. I brewed a wort that was twice as strong, and added more liquor to it in the fermenter before adding the yeast. Rather than a 5-6% porter, the result was a rather drinkable 3% porter.

Brewing this porter, and seeing how it has changed in the bottle over a couple of months, has had an effect on how I’ve enjoyed a beer. When I first tried Vibrant Forest’s Black Forest Porter on draught, it was rather fruity, much like my home brew. When I had a bottle of it a few weeks later, it wasn’t as fruity, and would have been disappointing, had my home brewed porter not had done a similar thing.

Over the last year or so when drinking a beer, I have tried to find out which hops have been used. The ones I have enjoyed the most are the ones I have made a note to try and use in my own brewing. Likewise, with styles. When I enjoy a beer, I often consider trying to make my own, to my tastes.

My plans for home brew are to use it to brew beers that I want to drink, and also to use it to learn more. The home brewer has much more freedom to experiment with ingredients than a commercial brewer does. It’s through experimenting that I’ll learn what works and what doesn’t. I’m hoping I get more of the former.

Has my short time home brewing affected how I enjoy drinking? So far, I have to say not really. Will that be different with time? Possibly, come and ask me again in a year or so.


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