Eighty years ago today, prohibition – that dark scourge that ravaged America – officially became a thing of the past. Prohibition reigned for nearly fourteen years until being repealed on this date in 1933. To celebrate, here are two of my favorite quotes about it by famed writer Don Marquis:
Drinking used to be a mighty commonplace matter; but Prohibition has brought a smack of adventure into it that makes it really enjoyable.
Prohibition makes you want to cry into your beer and denies you the beer to cry into.
I have made a number of presentations about brewing and home brewing and often get asked what the difference is between brewing beer and making moonshine, bourbon, or other spirits. In truth, beer and whiskey are made of the same basic ingredients – grain, water, and yeast. So what’s the difference if you simplify the ingredients this much? Other than the various ingredients you might use to flavor beer, the big difference is the process used to make it.
Both processes have a similar first step – to mash the grain. This is the step that extracts the fermentable sugars from the grain. Then you would collect the water and sparge – or rinse – the grain to collect as much sugar as possible. This is where the two operations deviate. If you want to make beer, you would boil the sweet water, add your flavorings, cool it and ferment it. This is really just the basics of brewing.
I read a question on an online forum recently that asked why people liked to clone beers. In the whole world of creative control and making pretty much whatever a person wants, some choose to reproduce what has already been done. Doesn’t this go against the nature and spirit of homebrewing?
I say no. Cloning a commercial beer can be a good way to learn the craft of brewing by trying to make something that is already a known quantity. You know you nailed it if you got the product you were expecting, or something reasonably close. To me, this is the strongest argument for clone brewing.
Extra strong, or special, bitter (also known as ESB) style beers are a fun beer to drink and a relatively simple one to make. When you hear an Englishman refer to a beer is a bitter, traditionally this is the style of beer they are referring to. This style of beer has been around a while. It came about probably sometime around the mid-1700s but was likely significantly different from what the style has evolved into. The term ‘bitter’ was used to distinguish the style of beer from that of others beers that were not hopped, not necessarily because the beer was very hoppy, just hoppier than a beer with no hops. However, over the course of the centuries, ESBs have become slightly more bitter than the average ale, probably for no other reason than they have the word ‘bitter’ in their name. Now ESBs are characterized by having a fairly distinct hoppy bitterness that is relatively stronger than their ale contemporaries.
Aerating your wort is one of the more important steps when making beer. After boiling it for an hour or however long your recipe specifies, a lot of the oxygen that was in the water has come out. All those bubbles during boiling are water vapor – H2O – a third of which is O, or oxygen. This oxygen is a vital part of the fermentation process, as yeast are aerobic creatures, meaning they need oxygen to thrive and procreate, just like we do.
The problem is how to get oxygen back into the wort.