Well, I am going to stray from my usual instructions of simple homebrewing. You've pretty much got a good start in knowing how to begin by now if you've kept up with this blog.
It was a move toward self discovery as I tried to answer the question: Why do I make and drink homebrew beer? Others may have differing reasons, but we may also come to discover why people continue to drink Budweiser today.
Let me give you some of my daily life experiences to illustrate my point. My wife and I frequent a Lansing Michigan bar called Dagwood's Tavern & Grill once a week. They do supply a variety of craft beers from month to month. Their usual lineup of products from the bigger beer companies is shown in the above picture. This table top menu is present on all the tables. My wife likes mixed drinks and I take it that this place makes them strong enough. While I'm unsure if the mixed drinks or the jukebox is the main draw for my wife, that might make a great exploration for an entry in another blog. I am less concerned about that issue and will leave that question unanswered.
On one such visit to Dagwoods, I noticed that the party at the table next to us ordered a pitcher of Budweiser. I asked an obvious question out loud that my wife couldn't help but hear, "With all the choices, why do people still order Budweiser?" My wife blurted out the obvious answer that people just want to get drunk and find that it's cheap. She usually has a good intuitive sense and knows what the public likes: she can filter out the top movies from the ones that turn out to be duds. Her response had me thinking as I surveyed the bar. Maybe the question isn't related to taste at all. The typical mating rituals were at play with a couple sitting on the bar stools. The man was paying particular attention to a woman. You could tell he wanted something - everything he said he finished with a smile as he continued to gaze at her as though she was a juicy steak dinner! I looked into the booths to find, what appeared to be married couples that seemed to be together for sometime, men staring at multiple TV's eyeing the latest scores of their favorite teams. Wives, in those same booths, appeared to be bored and looking around for anything that might be the least bit interesting. I ordered a Labatt Blue to see if I was missing something - that beer was pleasantly OK. It was what I used to drink in college. That's it. It was nothing more than OK. I thought about the question: Why do I make and drink homebrew beer? I also dwelled about the question I asked out loud earlier as to why people still drink Budweiser. I felt both questions were closely related as one was really a view from the opposite side of the coin.
While I pondered those questions, I remembered that I drank Budweiser, Michelob and MGD some time in the past. Budweiser was the choice just after I graduated from high school. Besides the mass market advertising, we seem to get a lot of influence from friends as we copy what they like. Conformity is the word as young people try to fit in with the others. Alcoholic drinks were available in Michigan to those 18 and over for a short time before they moved the age limit to 21. I remember, as Michigan drinking laws changed, it affected me also. Then, many of us would head down to Ohio, out of state, to drink. Budweiser was just an OK choice at the time. Michelob became the next choice because it was slightly better. During my college years, MGD and Labatt Blue were the choices to a slightly better tasting beer. It was a college ritual to get drunk by doing excessive alcohol with your friends. The keg at a party meant everybody was drinking the same thing. That beer had to be one that most of the people wouldn't mind. That keg usually held Budweiser. Many college students were scared of dating: tensions went away with the bottle. It was an ice breaker if everyone that was present drank. There was a good chance that if your date drank and you did as well that the evening would turn out better. If anything was going to happen that night there was a sense that drinking would help you get there. It would lower inhibitions. Booze would melt those barriers away. We may have had immature ideas back in the 1980's. Unlike the social media that helps people meet today, I remember meeting women at college classrooms, the hallways or local bars. I even recall the phase I went through of drinking ice beers at the beginning of my second marriage. I kept changing for a better tasting beer.
The late Michael Jackson sheds some light on the developing American beer industry in his book, The New World Guide to Beer. At the time of the book with a copyright of 1988, Jackson portrayed an America producing far more beer than any other country. The beers were mainly mild with word spread by mass-market advertising. Micro-breweries were available, but not so widely known. It wasn't so much that the big breweries produced beers that had wide appeal as much as they were less objectionable by the masses. Beers were not liked as much as one could really say they weren't disliked by the majority. Nothing clearly defined these mass market beers above the rest. We can see that advertising may have lead a lot of Americans toward those big beer brands.
So, why do I make and drink homebrew beer? By nature, I tend to be lazy and had read the homebrewing books for years before venturing into the hobby. I could see the big mess of cleaning up bottles. Eventually, I made the choice to try a kit. Perhaps, my interest in chemistry got me the desire to try more kits to see how good it would taste.
If I have a favorite beer style that's available I won't clone it as I only clone what I can't have. My latest projects are to clone the Paulaner Oktoberfest Wiesn, make an authentic gruit ale or reproduce Fred Scheer's Oktoberfest which has been labelled a Festbier. I have found the Wiesn has only been available in the Lansing area twice. I have gotten fascinated with some of the gruit ale recipes and have tasted a version coming from Mountain Town Brewing Co., in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. I want to try my own spin on gruit ale. I still have my favorite clones of Fred Scheer's creations. Scheer was a former brewmaster at the Frankenmuth Brewery of Frankenmuth Michigan. I've made some good Frankenmuth Oktoberfest, but I need to get the ratios a little better to have it come closer to being a real clone. Right now, I can only go from memory to duplicate what Scheer's beers tasted like.
If I hadn't decided to try new things I may not have even found out how good Fred Scheer's beers were.
My brother's Celiac Disease helped me to make the recent decision to try ciders; Angry Orchard Cider became a favorite over time when I went out to dinner. It wasn't too sweet like some other ones I had tried. Cider works for me when I am finding that the craft beer choices vary very little when I accompany my wife in going to her favorite bars. So, change has brought me more to cider.
Other people may have decided not to change in their choice of beers. Some may be content in not trying new things. Why? Who really knows. My wife doesn't change much in her choices of wine or mixed drinks. I think it comes down to choice or change: if I had not made a decision to try new beers I may not have found something new or better today. I may be still drinking Budweiser.
No, I'm not that kind of beer drinker. I once was like that other guy that drank Budweiser, but not anymore.
My Paulaner Wiesn clone: My last batch of Wiesn was broken into 2 different batches. After a sparging and lautering of 45 minutes, I had enough beer to fill my pot. This pot usually makes just over a gallon of beer after loosing 20% during the boil. I ended up with just a little beer for a 2nd batch to boil in a separate pot. I went through the sparging and lautering for another 30 minutes for this secondary batch. This second batch only had enough to fill 2 bottles after its own separate boil. I used a White Labs Oktoberfest yeast that was meant for a 5 gallon batch: 1/2 of the tube went to smaller secondary batch. The other 1/3 went to the primary one gallon batch. I poured the remaining yeast down the drain. I wanted to see the effects of different amounts of yeast in those separate batches. Both batches were drawn off the same batch during mashing: 93% German Pilsner malt and 7% Dark Munich with a total weight of 2.25 pounds. The secondary batch was amazing! It came close to tasting like a Duvel golden ale. The primary batch had me question what really happened. It had less yeast added and it was as though there was too much added. Little bits of yeast were all over the glasses after pouring. The beer appeared to be cloudy and had more sediment on the bottom. I didn't really know why the beer with more yeast did better, had less bits of yeast on the glass and was less cloudy. I had kept shaking the yeast in the tube and I felt I had equally distributed the yeast even though their proportions were different. What happened? More testing might reveal more answers.