Monday, February 28, 2005

Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall

Over lunch, I got together with Scott Mathis, at the Beer Store, and we made a couple of batches of beer -- a brown and an IPA.

Crafts come in two flavors -- things that give you a better product, cheaper (like computers built from components, or hand-smithed, black-powder rifles), and things that cost more than they would if you bought them, but that you do anyway, just because you love doing them (like swaters that you knit yourself).

Brewing beer is the former. In a couple of weeks, we'll have a lot of craft beer at about half the price it would cost me to buy it at the liquor store.

I got started brewing at the Beer Store six or seven years ago, when I was dating a woman who liked chewy beers. I gave her a gift certificate for a batch as a Valentine's Day present.

It's the perfect relationship present. You start a batch by spending a couple of hours together brewing, which is like cooking but you don't have to clean up afterwards. Two weeks later, you spend another couple of hours together, bottling. The result is six cases (15 gallons) of bombers.

Plus, if you break up in the two weeks between brewing and bottling, you each get three cases of beer to drink, to help you forget.

U-brews are the brewing analogue of frame shops. They'll rent you time slots to use their equipment, and sell you any supplies you need. You supply the work and take home the finished product.

They started in Canada, where an over-helpful government cheerfully taxed their microbreweries into extinction. Some of these breweries realized that by just renting their old equipment, instead of selling it for scrap, they'd no longer be taxed as breweries and could go into a new market.

The idea worked, and spread.

It spread here early. I think Jeff McLean's Beer Store, here in town, may be the country's oldest continuously operating u-brew.

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