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A gut check: Homebrewing and Consumption

On the AHA forum, Denny Conn posted this link to a sobering article.It really got me thinking. I have 4-5 batchs of strong beer in my pipeline at any given time. I am the only drinker in the house – and while I give a lot of it away… that’s a LOT of beer. I encourage you to read the article – it’s potent and well written.

I have become much more aware recently of the amount of beer I am producing and consuming. I brew, on average, 10 gallon batches, many of which exceed 7-8% ABV. While I give away a good portion of this – I also drink and cook with most of it myself. Moderating that consumption can be challenging. Especially when I would like to brew as often as possible – and the beer is accessible and plentiful. But an inventory of my brewing over the last few years seems to indicate a trend to brew stronger and more extreme styles. I would do the math – but it is depressing – and frankly, showing on my waist.

I truly enjoy the flavors and varieties of the beer I brew – and especially the process. Brewing is a challenging but rewarding hobby, but there are clear dangers of access to so much product. I would encourage every home brewer to be acutely aware of their rates of consumption and any pre-disposition to being an alcoholic. This also includes driving or any other behavior that is dangerous when under the influence – including operating a 60,000 BTU boil kettle or a malt mill! The science is very clear: alcohol will impair you and there are severe health consequences when abused. We need to be a responsible community. Sometimes we shouldn’t RDWHAHB.

So, to that end, I am going to strive to brew session strength beers with only the occasional “strong” celebration recipe. Looking at farmhouse and Belgian traditions – ale strengths varied quite a bit – but seldom actually reached the precipitous heights we see in today’s defined styles – those were reserved for special occasion. Bière faible, petite bière and bière table were all low alcohol for daily consumption (4-5 liters a day per worker in some cases!), and stronger versions under 5% were reserved for export or guarding (stored). We can see similar historic trends mirrored in Germany and Britain, even the US. I find I would rather have 3 pints of a nice table strength ale, than a short pour of an imperial strength brew.

So this should shift my focus from high-octane extremes to the more subtle table beers – and opens up exploration of British Ales, traditional farmhouse ales – and some lagers. Should be fun, and the occasional IIPA will be a nice reward, when I have a designated driver. Be moderate.


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