I Ain’t Dead Yet!

So this happened last week in San Diego.

I became the 36th recipient of the AHA Governing Committee Recognition Award. For the record, I had no damn clue that this was happening – Denny kept it a secret from me and just made sure I was at the right place at the right time!

Annie Johnson, Drew (looking classy) and Julia Herz on stage with the award.

Every year since 1988 the American Homebrewers Association Governing Committee votes to single out one member of the homebrewing community for their work in the world of homebrewing. The award is given solely at the discretion and direction of the Governing Committee members (aka no one in the AHA or BA Corporate Staff has a say in the award). In a way, it’s a lifetime achievement award for being way, way too involved in brewing. I’m unspeakably shocked to join the ranks of big name recognition winners even that dang fool of a winner the GC awarded the year prior. (Love you, Denny!)

3 of the past 5 winners of the Award (Denny, Chris P Frey, me!)

The Acceptance Speech I Didn’t Give Because I Got Surprised With This Thing

Friends, brewers, ale lovers, lend me your beers. I come to brew a Saison, not praise Drew…..

It’s easy to get obsessed about the beer when at a conference in a city awash in suds and forget that the real prize in this hobby isn’t the glasses of drink, nailing that perfect haze or clarity (depending on your goals), the medals you win or the toys you gather to brew, but rather the making, learning and sharing.

What I Like About Brewing

  1. Enjoying the odd mix of tinkering and worrying over a creative mechanical process despite the whole effort being easily circumvented by going down the block to your nearest brewery or grocery store.
  2. Connecting with fellow nerds over such a sociable endeavour after all the solitary puttering time. Getting a chance to taste and ask questions or proudly tell my own story is so choice.

It’s the second bit that kicks me in the pants and keeps me working hard. I enjoy beer and brewing, but for a relatively quiet and shy (yes, I know – trust me) person, I love this community more than any pint.

Even with all the divisiness of today, beer people are pretty chill and fun to talk to. (some of you take this way, way, way too personally – its only beer)  We’re mostly nerdy people ready to get deep in the weeds of humanity’s fundamental beverage.

For me – I live in a big damn city that can get pretty damn lonely despite there being 10 million other people here. It’s easy to float and be disengaged. The Maltose Falcons, my club, give me a way to connect and through them have I ever learned the broader world.

Why Homebrewing Matters To Me (and What I Get From It)

Beyond community, I’ll give you a few other reasons why homebrewing rocks and why you should continue to brew.

  1. Solidity of Process– I work with computers for a living and at the end of the day it’s hard to point at my laptop and say “I made this!”. Brewing engages a human need “to make” – to have a thing to point to as the fruits of our labor. Beer is there longer than the dinner I made and not as long as a birdhouse. (And frankly, you quickly run out of friends needing birdhouses)
  2. Exploring Tradition – Brewing is very much a craft – a practical art handed down from brewer to brewer. It stretches back over 10,000 years with tons of history, myths and legends. I love the stories and I love the frisson caused by the push/pull of tradition and science…
  3. Continuing to Learn – you can escape learning the science and just do the process, but the science makes this a whole lot easier! It’s kept me reading papers, learning chemistry and biology and isn’t that fun?
  4. Engaging With The Audience – I used to hate speaking in front of crowds, but then in a fit of “I need to help” I became the club president, requiring me to speak. Now I give presentations, multiple times per month for crowds, little or large, virtual or physical. The biggest knock-on effect has been in my career. I regularly give talks and presentations there as well and it’s helped me advance (while still being awful at schmoozing, but now at least people think it’s interesting that I brew)

The Final Message

Homebrewing is at a crossroads right now. Involvement is declining, homebrew shops and clubs see less interest. Every neighborhood has a brewery or two. Why bother spending 4-8 precious weekend hours making beer that I can buy down the street in a minute?

I cannot implore you enough – get out there, show people the creativity and positivity brewing encourages (even if you’re grumpy like me) and for the love of all things beery – MAKE BEER, HAVE FUN, AND ENJOY THE PEOPLE!

Some Things To Look At:

My very first article for Zymurgy (2006) Et Tu, Brut.

My Saison Guide – A Guide To Saisons and Saison Yeasts

My Zymurgy Article About Saisons- “A Saison For Every Season”

My BeerAdvocate Column: BYOB With Drew Beechum

Where the Podcast Started: Episode 1 of Experimental Brewing

Where We Decided To Make It More Complicated: BrewFiles Episode 1

One of my favorite presentations: Brewing on the Ones at NHC 2012

Core Drew Recipes:

CDJK Mild – The beer I want to have when I want a beer that won’t slow me down or bore me.

Citra Saison – My second foray into making a hoppy Belgian beer and still one of my favorites.

Clam Chowdah Saison  – just to mess with ya’ll and remind you that beer doesn’t always need to be serious, but you need to be serious about what you’re doing. Plus it proved to Denny – don’t challenge me. 🙂

Falconsclaws Simplified – Big, bold, brassy and a perfect example of how I’ve changed my recipes over time. (Compare to the original)

I Dream of Jenny Cream Ale – Summer in a glass, period. I can drink a raft of this and be happy

Pliny the Toddler Pale Ale – A debiggified version of the classic Pliny the Elder. If you want to make a Pliny the Younger clone, I’d suggest Craig Shapland’s Old School TIPA

Saison Experimentale – Probably the beer I’ve brewed the most in my life. Such a wonderful glass of exploration. Simple and let’s the yeast shine.