Just the other week a good friend of mine asked that I save my non-twist top bottles for him. Instantly I knew why.
You see, my friend and I regularly meet up every Wednesday evening at a local bar that touts over 500 beers from around the world. Gone are the days that we settled for the bland and uninspired tastes of domestic beers. Our palates have matured to plane where exploring new brewers, styles and IBUs have turned us into the barley pop hunter-gatherers we are today.
And just like hunter-gatherers of old, my good friend longed to evolve into a beer farmer. His request for my used bottles signaled to me that he is ready to try his hand a brewing his own beer for the first time.
With the holidays right around the corner I turned to Peter Cherpack of BeerAppreciation.com for guidance as to what gift would best suit a novice brewmaster.
“There are three paths one could take when finding a gift for a homebrew enthusiast.” says Peter. “The gift of instruments, the gift of product, or the gift of knowledge.”
The Gift of Instruments
Peter says if there were one item he wished he could have invested in early in his homebrewing career, it would be a large All-Clad Stock Pot. Peter mentioned that a mistake novice brewers make when first starting their brewing adventures is not purchasing the right equipment. “An aluminum stock pot may seem to work well for you, but it typically has hot spots and doesn’t heat the product as well as an All-Clad stock pot. It is well worth the money.”
Another suggestion Peter gave was to purchase a high quality glass hydrometer. “These things break all the time and typically at the most inopportune time.” says Peter. “It’s nice to have an extra one handy just in case.”
The Gift of Product
Purchasing high quality hops, grains or barley for your new brewmaster is two fold; it motivates the brewer to make more beer and it almost certainly guarantees you a bottle or two of free brew.
“..Why not buy your friend some exotic ingredient he or she might not normally buy – it will challenge them – and possibly add to their brewing experience. New exotic hops (Jade? Citra?), spices (fresh vanilla beans), grains (rye)? Probably helps to pick something they at least like and would be willing to try…”
The Gift of Knowledge
This is by far the most invaluable option. Being new to the hobby of brewing beer can be rather intimidating. Not only are you looking at trying to recreate your favorite style of beer, but you also have to juggle recipes, equipment, workspace and brewing areas just to name a few obstacles. Bestowing years of knowledge upon your young brewmaster can be helpful in learning the process, techniques, and general workflow may not be something you can do yourself. However, a good book can certainly help.
One book in particular was suggested by Peter. “There is a book called ‘CloneBrews’ by Tess and Mark Szamatulski available today. This book walks you through creating some quality beers you can get at your local grocery. The idea of using this book isn’t to simply ‘clone’ a beer, but more importantly it gives you a foundation to modify.” Peter continues “You see, once you know how to brew a beer that really tastes like a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale then — you can change the recipe by adding more hops or less malt and sample the result. Similar to the scientific method, brewing a ‘control’ (or clone beer) and modifying the recipe for the control will teach you more about the importance of ingredient volume as it has a direct impact on your end result.”
So there it is. If you are looking to encourage your new brewmaster to start, or even continue, to hone the skills of their craft you simply cannot go wrong with one of those three gift options.
Note from Peter: If you are in the Philly Suburbs – Check out “Brew Your Own Beer” in Havertown, Tell John I sent you -he will help you.