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Why I Don't Bother Brewing My Own Beer

Homebrewing is a solution without a problem—like the smart toaster or a gritty Super Mario reboot.
Photo via Flickr user Didriks

Brewing my own beer sounds pretty unappealing. The beer I get from the store is reasonably priced, it's easy to procure, and perfectly delicious. That makes homebrewing a solution without a problem—like the smart toaster or a gritty Super Mario reboot

Here is how I procure my beer: I get in my car, drive to the store, select my beer and some snacks, hand the clerk my credit card, get in my car and drive home to drink said beer. Quick and easy. Occasionally, I get my beer a different way: I walk outside to the mailbox and find a box of beer inside it, at which point I discard my mail and drink my beer. If you've never received beer by mail, then you need a new mailman.


Point being, I'm an old fart who likes to keep things easy, and I don't believe the process of procuring and drinking beer should include a step where I clear out my garage and make a sanitary space for a giant R2-D2 lookin' oven thing, then do a lot of waiting.

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I have no doubt that there are folks out there brewing up some good backyard suds with a Brewbot, for example. But it would have to be damn good beer to get me to put in any more work than it requires to drive to the store down the road. There are other ways to brew your own beer, of course. There's the $800 PicoBrew, which allows you to brew your own Rogue Dead Guy Ale for roughly 33 percent more money than buying it at the store, but at least it's small enough that you won't need an addition to your house to make room for it. Apparently there will soon be a Keurig method of homebrewing, too, but Keurig is the kind of company that could fuck up a cheese sandwich, so let's not get our hopes up about that device.

Look, I requested and received a SodaStream for Christmas, so I get the impulse to play chemist in the kitchen from time to time. But I'm drawing my line in the sand right here at home-brewing and pasta-making and juice-pressing. These are hobbies, and that's fine, but when I want to eat or drink I don't want to start by downloading a PDF or taking out my power washer. Some things just don't need a high-tech version or a killer app.Some things are good just the way they are: simple, old-fashioned, and just damn good. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go read a book on my Kindle while I ask Alexa to turn on the Roomba and download audiobooks onto my iPhone.


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Here are a few of the decidedly less amateur brewdogs I've been quaffing over the last week or so:

Not Your Father's Vanilla Cream Ale: My father didn't drink much vanilla cream, but if he did, he might have bought this. Or, well, I guess it depends on whether or not his dad drank much vanilla cream. It's really hard to say, since he died before I could ask him. At any rate, NYFVCA is a lot like the other Smalltown Brewery offerings—surprisingly delicious, with very little if any traditional beer flavor, and a sugary formula that gets cloying in a hurry. Not Your Father's Root Beer was such a novelty at first that I plowed through two cases when it came out and haven't been able to touch it since. I will try not to ruin myself on the Vanilla Cream Ale as quickly, but it might be even tastier than its predecessors.

Leinenkugel's Bavarian Dunkel: Leinie bills this lager as "a medium-bodied dark beer with hints of berries", but I would alter that slightly. How about "a fruitcake ashtray that makes me hate myself"? A hearty no thank you to this effort. A little advice: if you're trying to quit smoking, stay away from this one, or you might wanna drink a whole case.

Caldera Brewing Ashland Amber: I grabbed this one for $.99 since the can's best-by date was smudged beyond recognition. For the discerning drinker, freshness dates are crucial information that can make or break a purchase. But for bargain-hunting beer clowns such as myself, the low price tag is enough. I didn't feel like going biking, rafting, or snowboarding afterwards, like the label suggested, but I did feel like having another nicely balanced, if unremarkable, ale from the pacific northwest.

New Belgium + Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale: This tastes about exactly like it sounds. It's sweet, of course, but it also comes across as light and airy in the same way that Ben & Jerry's ice cream does. It dissolves pleasantly on the tongue. This could easily have been a disaster in the hands of other breweries, but it is somehow a pretty drinkable goof-off beer. I'm not going to buy any more of it, but if some weirdo handed it to me at a party, I would drink it. And then I would leave the party (not a big social guy).

Schlafly Christmas Ale: Very strong on the booze flavor, and in something like this, it's kind of what you want. But it's the other characteristics of the beer that don't work for me: there's just too much spice, and too many different spices here, which prevents Christmas Ale from becoming a cohesive idea. Just drink mulled wine if that's what you're looking for. Or, better yet, gin. I love gin.

Ballast Point Peppermint Victory at Sea: Ballast Point does a lot of kick-ass experimental shit in general, and with Victory at Sea in particular. And like most creatively unencumbered outlets, there are hits and misses. Even Kanye had Yeezus, you know? Peppermint Victory at Sea is very Yeezus to me. But I'm still looking forward to the release of their Life of Pablo.