I’ve always wanted to ferment something into a drinkable substance. For a long time I thought of becoming a home-vintner. I like wine. I like the infinite varieties it comes in. I like its complexity, the way the same style from the same winery can vary from bottle to bottle depending on what year it was made, or even from the same year depending on how long the bottle has been sitting around. One problem with making wines at home, at least in the area where I live, is the lack of local raw ingredients. Yes, I live in the Hudson River Valley. Yes, there are a number of wineries within an hours drive, and some really great ones just one days round trip out to the Finger Lakes region. But, the grape varieties available for home-vintners near me are still limited. Grapes are also only available for a short period of time each year, and it takes a long time to make. There are a number of other reasons, but suffice it to say that the pluses did not add up enough to override the minuses. So, I turned my attention from grapes to grains.
Brewing beer is a lot like making wine. They both use similar equipment and processes. However, while wine usually takes a few months to make, beer takes only a few weeks. The ingredients are not as perishable as those for wine. They can be shipped over longer distances so availability and choice of variety are better. I live in the most heavily farmed county in the Hudson Valley, so local fresh ingredients are available, too. I also own about 6 acres of prime farmland. If I ever get the desire (or should I say, ambition), I can easily grow-my-own. Most of my friends are beer drinkers, so we’ll have more to talk about over a glass of the end product. When I mentioned my interest in making a batch of home-brew to my sister, she offered my brother-in-law’s old beer kit, since she was looking for a place to get rid of it. That put me over the edge. The stars aligned, and I had no more reasons not to get into the home-brew hobby.
I like beer. I’ve drunk a lot more beer over the years than I have wine, that’s for sure. I started out in my late teens and early twenties consuming mass quantities of Genesee Cream Ale and Pabst Blue Ribbon. At the time I thought they were decent beers. In retrospect, they were probably the most affordable beers that I could stomach. The purpose of beer back then was not so much enjoyment of a tasty beverage as it was a social lubricant. And being a somewhat introverted young man, I needed lots of oil. As I’ve matured over the years, so has my palate. I no longer drink beer made by the mega-breweries (unless that’s all there is, of course). I’m not a beer snob, but I do demand flavor in the beers I drink, just as I do the food I eat. I enjoy eating out at a nice restaurant, but I also enjoy a home-cooked meal. I still intend to enjoy my favorite craft-brewed beers whenever possible, but I’d also like to relax with a nice home-cooked beer on occasion, too.
Here are the three craft-brews at the top of my list right now:
Chatham Porter by Chatham Brewing
Ubu Ale by Lake Placid Pub and Brewery
Long Trail Ale by Long Trail Brewing Co.