Even before I left Cambridge, I was already investigating what sort of short bike tours I might be able to make out of NYC and beyond. And before I even found a bike to carry me, I’d already signed up for a ride. A few weeks ago, the New York City Homebrewers Guild made its second annual ride to Captain Lawrence Brewing in Elmsford, NY. Not only was it my first long ride since returning to the States, it was also my first group ride, which was a whole new biking experience.
In their books, accomplished homebrewers often advise the reader to keep notes on how the character of a brew evolves over time. A brewer who has insight into how flavors and aromas lent by malt, hops, and yeast evolve over time can adjust the recipes and technique to make a beer ready for consumption sooner or improve its longevity by trying to achieve stable characteristics. With this in mind, I’ve waited over a month to review my session ale, but I’ve found that over that month the only thing that’s changed are my perceptions and opinions of the beer, while the characteristics of the beer itself have not.
After tasting my pomegranate saison at bottling, I was a bit concerned with whether or not it would have any fruit character. There was nothing in the beer to suggest fruit at the time, so I decided to prime with more pomegranate molasses. I simply calculated the amount of priming sugar I would need, and then multiplied it by the ratio of the total mass of molasses to the mass of sugar (i.e. according to the nutritional facts there is is x grams of sugar in y grams of molasses). I didn’t get a chance to taste it until I was serving it at a New York City Homebrewers’ Guild meeting. The priming method completely transformed the beer.
We here in the apartment have been sucking down bottles of my quick Berliner weisse in the summer heat, but only now have I been able to get a good picture of a pour and write up a review.
Besides serving it quite a few of my friends, I was also able to bring a bomber of the brew to the last NYC Homebrewers Guild meeting. Some said that the beer was mouth-puckeringly sour while others suggested I make it more sour still. Many of those who were just returning from the National Homebrewer Conference in Philadelphia a few weeks before agreed that my beer was much more pleasant than many unfortunate examples of the style that had been served at the conference. One person even said it was her favorite beer that had been shared that night.
We live in a time when information is shared easily between brewers via blogs, podcasts, and forums, and a brewer is only a click away from a knowledgable, friendly community. While books are helpful in learning about brewing, even at a very technical level with a high degree of specificity, I think the active dialogue between practitioners of any craft is irreplaceable in aiding the growth development of one’s skills. Long before forums, homebrewers banded into clubs in order to share ideas and their brews, and these clubs continue to be one of the most valuable resources available to the homebrewer. Several brewers (homebrewers and professional) have recommended to me that I join a club, and so I have: the NYC Homebrewers Guild.