Our 41st Session about how homebrewing has, and continues, to influence and inspire commercial brewing. Hosted by the Wallace Brothers, Jeff and Tom, at Lugwrench Brewing. Jeff describes their topic, Craft Beers Inspired by Homebrewing, as follows:
Session topics typically come from the host’s area of passion — something they have a strong affinity towards. For Tom and I, the real pathway in our appreciation of Craft Beer has been through the hobby of homebrewing. Not only has this hobby fostered yet another reason for two geographically-separated brothers to collaborate (the core concept for the Lug Wrench blog being “a fraternal bond over beer”), it was through homebrewing where we learned what makes a marginal beer and what makes an exceptional beer. It was the lauching pad for how we came to admire (and sometimes fanaticize) about “good” beer. So during our discussions of potential topics, the debate kept coming back to homebrewing and how craft beer is connected to the amateur brewing community.
The chosen topic: Craft Beers Inspired By Homebrewing. How has homebrewing had an affect on the commercial beer we have all come to love? Feel free to take the topic in any direction your imagination leads you.
Write about a beer that has its roots in homebrewing. Write about a commercial beer that originated from a homebrew.
Write about a professional brewer you admire who got their start in homebrewing before they went pro. Write about a professional brewer who still homebrews in their free time.
Write about a Pro-Am beer tasted either at a festival or a brewpub. Write about an Amateur / Professional Co-op you’ve had the pleasure of experiencing (such as The Green Dragon Project).
Write about commercial brewers using “Homebrewing” as part of the marketing. Write about the Sam Adams LongShot beers, whether good or bad.
While there are many, many positive contributions I think homebrewing has made to commercial brewing and the wider beer community, the one that always resonates with me is the way in which the sharing of knowledge and technical assistance that is the hallmark of the homebrewing community has translated to commercial brewing, as well. It’s something I think we take for granted, but which is almost unique around the world. A few years ago, I did an article about collaboration beers, Brewing Togetherness, for All About Beer magazine and a little later took a trip to New Zealand, which resulted in another article, Kiwi Kerveza. One thing I learned while working on those two pieces is that one of the factors that allowed the rapid growth of our microbrewery scene stems from the fact that many, if not most, of the brewers who entered the field early on came to it from being homebrewers themselves. So they were used to the homebrew culture — and especially homebrew clubs — that invite and encourages people to share with one another, offer constructive criticism and assistance and simply be supportive. When those same homebrewers turned pro, so to speak, they continued to be as open with their fellow commercial brewers as they’d been in their homebrewing communities.
That was nearly a unique situation where in most other places that did not happen. In nations with older, more traditional brewing heritage, like Germany or England, most breweries were larger and their brewers came out of trade schools. They acted like most industries do, and trade secrets and other proprietary information was protected, and not freely shared. In New Zealand, I learned that its remoteness itself served to make people distrustful and unwilling to take or give advice or help. The effect of that in those places is it seems to have stunted a vibrant small brewery explosion. Those explosions are now taking place in most countries, especially those with rich brewing heritages. Any many I’ve spoken to credit the American craft beer scene for inspiration or influence. And that leads back to the openness of our craft brewers.
One brewer I interviewed for the collaboration article related a story from the Craft Brewers Conference, when it was in San Diego two times ago. He presented a seminar in which he shared brewing techniques with the audience, and the audience participated openly sharing their own experiences with the same techniques. After the seminar, a couple of German brewers came up to him and explained that such openness would never happen in Germany. Of course, they don’t have the homebrewing culture that America does.
So while homebrewing was the path most took to starting a craft brewery, it was that very culture of homebrewing that made them successful. Almost without exception, the early breweries that have not only lasted, but flourished, are the ones that were the most open and helped out their fellow small brewers. While counter-intuitive for most industries, it is one of the most important factors in turning our brewing reputation as a nation from laughingstock to one of envy in less than three decades, a remarkable achievement. And I believe it was thanks to homebrewing that it happened, and that it continues to be true. Thank you, homebrewers.