Philosophy and Brewing
Believe it or not, I used to be a Philosophy major. Besides a load of student debt, and a penchant for discourse, I left that time behind and went on to get a ‘real’ job. Nevertheless, I often find myself reading over old textbooks and digging up old quotes which interested me all those years back. One that recently came to mind was written by Søren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher. Kierkegaard wrote,
I have just come home from a party where I was its life and soul; witticisms streamed from my lips, everyone laughed and admired me, but I went away — yes, the dash should be as long as the radius of the earths orbit – – – – – – – – – – – and I wanted to shoot myself.
Kierkegaard was writing about the life of the aesthetic, a person largely concerned with enjoyment and desire. One often finds, Kierkegaard thought, that desires are fleeting. Once desires have been met, a new desire pops up – a greater desire. The life of the aesthetic leads to despair, because it always leads to wanting more. In the quote above, the aesthetic’s despair is illustrated: the aesthetic goes to a party seeking enjoyment and pleasure, and leaves unsatisfied and in despair – he’s been to parties before, but this one didn’t top it.
But, wait a second. What the hell am I talking about, and how does this have anything to do with home brewing? Simple. DON’T BE AN AESTHETIC! Be satisfied with what you have – specifically your brewing equipment – and you’ll avoid home brewer’s despair!
Rock your Brewing Equipment
I did lots of research before I started brewing; Extract, BIAB, all grain, HERMS, RIMS, and SWMBO were all foreign terms to me. I didn’t allow myself to buy one single piece of equipment before I knew exactly what I needed. I wanted a kettle, but I skipped buying the small, cheaper one so that I didn’t limit myself on future brews. Same with my 10 gallon igloo cooler – I could have got the 5 gallon for a few quid cheaper, but I held off until I had the money for the right kit. I’m not saying to hold off until you have enough money to buy a micro brewery – I’m just suggesting that you do your research, find out which brewing equipment is right for you, and work with it.
Once you have your equipment, take a step back. Don’t fall into the trap that the aesthetic does, and constantly worry about how you can make it better. Be content with your equipment, and get to the point where you know it inside and out. Know the boil off volumes, the heat loss that you can expect in your mash tun, and how to stop that pesky leak on the fly. Knowing your brewing equipment – what it does well and what it doesn’t – is possibly the most important thing that I have come to realise over the past couple of years.
Now, I’m not saying that I’ve never fallen prey to my aesthetic side. I recently bought a pump thinking that it would help me out. I also wanted to be part of the pump crew – that (lucky?) group of people with shiny brew rigs draped in all walks of technology. That pump, i’m sorry to say, has been sat in my shed picking up dust. Why? Gravity works, and having a pump did not make my beer any better. Always ask yourself before you upgrade your brewing equipment, “is this going to make my beer any better?” If the answer is no, put your money into something else. Take the time now to focus on your brewing technique, or water quality for example, and the benefits to your beer become evident.
My number one priority as a home brewer is to make good beer. I hope yours is too. And the well known saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” often rings true. If you are constantly revising your brewing equipment , or ‘improving’ it, you will have a hard time getting to know your equipment. Focus on brewing good beer instead, and don’t let your aesthetic side get the best of you!
Have you fallen prey to your aesthetic side? I’d love to hear from you, so please leave your comments below!