The Session #139 Beer and the Good Life

For the 139th edition of The Session (aka Beer Blogging Friday) Bill Vandeburgh of Craft Beer in San Diego has asked us to write on the subject Beer and the Good Life.

Being English, and of a certain age, the phrase 'The Good Life' immediately conjures up images of Tom and Barbara Good in the BBC sitcom of that name. For those not familiar with the programme (American readers may have seen it broadcast as 'Good Neighbours' apparently) it tells the story of Tom and Barbara turning their back on conventional lifestyles to live self sufficiently in suburbia, and how this affects their friendship with their neighbours. 

While I have never even remotely approached self sufficiency, I have, over the years, dabbled with living the good life in a variety of ways. This has included growing vegetables on an allotment, keeping chickens in my garden, and making jams, pickles and chutneys. Just under two years ago I started to brew my own beer. 

Ingredients at the ready
Mashing in on the hob

I'm certainly not self sufficient in beer; in fact, I wouldn't want to be. There is just far too much wonderful commercial beer that I love to drink when I can. However, cost and availability are limiting factors. Before I started brewing I drank a certain amount of relatively cheap beer, not with any great gusto, but just because I fancied a pint after a hard week at work. These days, those supermarket beers have been replaced by homebrew.

Sparging with the kitchen colander

Years ago I brewed beer from liquid malt extract kits. It ranged from awful to tolerable. I read a bit about brewing with grain back then but it seemed far too complicated. In December 2016 my son took me on a brewery tour at Adnams, which rekindled my interest in brewing. A couple of weeks later, a friend mentioned small batch brewing to me. I did some research and had my first brew day early in 2017.

Getting the hop boil underway

I brew one gallon batches, that is and English imperial gallon or 4.5 litres. One of the joys of this is that I need very little specialist equipment. I mash and boil in a standard stock pot on my kitchen stove. I ferment in a food grade plastic bucket that originally contained bird food. All I had to buy to get started was a thermometer, a hydrometer, and some airlocks. Ingredients cost me between £0.20 - £ 0.80 for a 500 ml bottle of beer. It really is quite a cheap way way to drink beer!

High gravity winter warmer

For a lot of people brewing is a much more expensive hobby. Most amateur brewers produce 5 gallon batches, or sometimes even more. That requires various specialist bits of kit that can run to £1,000 or more. On the other hand, doing it my way isn't very time efficient; it takes me almost as long to make 1 gallon as it would to make 5, if I had the brewkit. 

Yeast getting to work

If I had five gallons of beer though, I really wouldn't know what to do with it. I don't want to drink the same beer for weeks and weeks at a time. Doing it my way I get to play around with lots of different beer recipes. I have investigated how different techniques for mashing and sparging get different results in the finished beer. I have learnt an awful lot about beer, how it is made, how different ingredients work. I don't consider myself an expert by any means, but I do think I am a lot more knowledgeable about beer than I was. In turn that means I enjoy beer more, and that contributes to my enjoyment of a good life.

The finished product


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