One of the things that readers of this blog know is that I really like beer. I’m often at new breweries trying new beers, or picking up local beers when I’m out of town. I really like beer.
Since 2008 I’ve also been a homebrewer. A good friend of mine got me into the hobby and I’ve had a lot of fun growing myself from a simple extract setup to my full all-grain process, with a keg freezer for easier dispensing. However, for the past year or so I haven’t been homebrewing nearly as much as I used to.
For many years I was actively brewing beer, sometimes multiple times in a weekend. I’ve entered homebrew competitions, and even won a few medals. I joined a local homebrew club and attended a lot of meetings, and volunteered at some of our competitions. I’d also often give away bottles of my beer to friends, and trade bottles with other brewers.
Yet, in the past year I’ve brewed only twice (that I can recall). I still have a half a keg of my last brew that I’m slowly working through, and I even have in my head what my next brew will be, but I still haven’t bothered to actually brew it. So what has changed that I’m not longer as interested in the hobby as I used to be?
I think that a few things have contributed to my change in habit. There’s the obvious reason that often happens to people; life gets busy, and it’s hard to make time for hobbies, especially ones that take an entire afternoon on a weekend. But I think that even more than that, the main reason I’ve stopped brewing as much, is the explosion of really good local beer on the market.
For many years, the selection of local craft beer was 2-3 brands. Summit, Surly and Schell’s were about the only breweries out there producing decent craft beer in my area, and despite producing decent stuff, if you wanted more adventure you had to make it yourself. You could look at out-of-state breweries, and I often did. I’ve bought tons of beer from west coast and east coast breweries that have helped to fill in the gaps that local brewers weren’t filling. But again, if I wanted something local, it doesn’t get more local than my own garage.
In the past 3-4 years however, our local craft beer scene has exploded with dozens of new breweries. Some of these are taproom-only affairs, but now that canning craft beer has become so popular, many of these small breweries have started distributing as well. It’s easy to head to the local liquor store and have my pick of dozens of different brews from all over the state. Despite the quality being somewhat hit/miss in the early days, now, just about everything you get is well done.
In addition, most of these breweries also have taprooms that allow you to relax and enjoys some pints in a cool, hip environment. Many taprooms feature incredibly unique brews that you can’t get in store, like amazing sours and limited edition seasonal brews and infusions. Growlers make it super easy to take the beer home with you and keep my fridge stocked with even more choices. Additionally, with so many nice places to go and drink beer at, it’s sometimes desirable to go out for a beer instead of staying in.
I think that this explosion is the main motivator behind why I don’t brew quite as much anymore. Competitions don’t really interest me anymore, as I find them to mostly be a crap-shoot once you’re at the level of brewing good beer. Homebrew clubs can be fun, but if you’re not brewing, then going to club meetings doesn’t make as much sense.
All this combines to mean that for the foreseeable future, I’ll probably just be an occasional brewer. I doubt I’ll ever give up the hobby completely, but I doubt I’ll ever be quite as active a homebrewer as I once was.