Wednesday, December 11, 2013

From water to beer: a homebrewing guide

Many of the modern luxuries we experience on a daily basis were developed with a sole purpose in mind: convenience. The television brought movies home, the treadmill brought running indoors; so why not beer?

Home brewing can be a fun and fulfilling hobby that is delicious to enjoy. Although it may seem like a complex science made only possible with equipment and ingredients on a large scale, most of the beers featured in bars and big time breweries can be made at home in smaller, 5-gallon batches.

“My parents bought me a home brew kit when I was young…I made browns, some lagers, lots of ambers,” said Community Beer Works founder Greg Tanski, a 15-year homebrewing veteran.
A batch of beer wort fermenting, photo courtesy of Seth Rios
Since becoming federally legalized in 1978, homebrewing has become the leading method for amateur beer lovers to create fresh, personally-made brews. It also allows homebrewers a chance to experiment with flavors and apply their own outside knowledge to brew a blend pleasing to their palate.
“My best friend bought me my first kit as a wedding present,” said Seth Rios, a chemical engineer graduate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with more than three years of homebrewing experience. “His reasoning was that I’m a chemical engineer, and this is engineering.”
Homebrewing is a relatively easy hobby to enjoy. To get going, many experienced brewers recommend buying a kit. These start at around $80 and include all of the necessary equipment and ingredients to brew beer at home.
“It’s probably the easiest way to go,” said Tanksi. "Start off with the malt extracts, like most people start off with. Moving into full grain allows you to experiment more."
Each batch of beer will cost about $25 to $45 in ingredients per 5 gallons, depending on the style being brewed. When finished, this will typically yield about 48 bottles of 12-ounce beers.

Rios warns that mistakes are bound to happen.

“I was brewing a bourbon vanilla stout when the fermentation lock blew off while it was fermenting,” said Rios. “This introduced bacteria into the brew, which skunked it. What made it worse was that the wort (the beer liquid before fermentation) tasted awesome and it would have been a great batch.”
Throwing away 16 hours of work and over four 4 weeks of patience may be tough to overcome, but experienced brewers recommend to avoid focusing just on the end product.
“You have to like the process of it, not just the beer,” said Rios.
As long as you have the patience, a love of beer and the determination, homebrewing can be a unique experience that yields a delicious result.
"Read up online or any of the books out there about it," said Tanski. "Learn to be a tinkerer, build your own brewing kit, join a local group; everyone's out there to help each other."

Blue and gold make green

It’s game night at the local tavern and the Buffalo Sabres just pulled off an impressive win in the last seconds of the third. After a few celebratory rounds you asked the bartender for your check, only to find that the final amount is more than you anticipated; a lot more.

Sports fans have long enjoyed beer as the beverage of choice while watching their favorite teams compete. It pairs well with arena food and can transform an average night into an energetic experience. What many may not realize, however, is that a team’s performance can directly influence the generosity and beer choices of their fans.
“When the Sabres play well, customers definitely tip better,” said Katherine Glaser, a concessions worker at First Niagara Center.
The effect isn’t limited to the fans. Suk Lema, a waitress at First Niagara’s Lexus Club, regularly works with the Sabres’ staff and said the results are similar.
“The [players] are more generous after wins,” said Lema, “they’re happier and more excited at lunches and it shows on the bill.”
When asked the reason for this phenomenon, both Glaser and Lema agreed that people with positive attitudes tend to be more lavish with their spending habits. Glaser also said that it’s a matter of urgency.
“When [the Sabres] are winning and fans are buying food, a lot of them leave twenty-dollar bills for $16 purchases,” said Glaser. “They’d rather tip more than wait the extra time for change.”
And those tips add up. On a winning night, Glaser said, she receives almost twice the additional income as opposed to nights that end in losses.
Along with the Sabres’ home arena, local bars and restaurants notice the effect as well. Melvin, a bartender at “Indulge,” shared his experience when Buffalo hockey fans witness a loss.
“The mood seems to turn upside down. It’s hard to sell to a group that can’t celebrate and wants to go home,” said Melvin.
Although the team’s performance may be less than satisfactory this season, Lema said that fans continue to enjoy their favorite beers at games. She also said the wins now have an even greater affect on spending than ever before.
“The Sabres are really lucky,” said Lema, “even with [their] record, fans come to every game to support them like we were winning every time.”
But supporting local restaurants and bars when the Sabres are losing? That's another matter.