(This bout of beery banter comes to us from Jeremy Short of Pintwell. The topic: how homebrewing changes your relationship with beer.)
To be unfairly simplistic, the world can be separated into two kinds of people: consumers and makers. They form a complicated codependency, always needing each other to exist but in different ways, two dancers caught up in so dramatic and intense a tango that they often forget who is leading who. The same way an oak drinks the rain to make an acorn that becomes a squirrel’s winter dinner, there’s a natural beauty in the cycle of creation and consumption, and at some point in life a person will play both roles, possibly at the same time.
In a topical coincidence, blogging and homebrewing fall under the same umbrella of creation. They’re the hobbyist’s logical steps towards the professional; the sentence and syntax practice on the path to publication, the mashing and boiling on the boulevard to the brewhouse. To be done well, both require relatively large time (and sometimes financial) investments, with little to no return outside of personal satisfaction and some loose concept that all this practice might be beneficial at some ill-defined point in the future. They are, as far as hobbies go, poorly calculated risks that would make any actuary worth his spreadsheets cringe and run in mathematical terror.
But they do have one advantage that makes up for the sacrificed time and energy: creative freedom. A blogger is left to his own editorial devices, free to write anything he wants with only his experience and sensibilities to guide the quality. A homebrewer is free to brew whatever she doesn’t see on tap, let her recipes run wild down the weird and winding paths of unusual adjuncts, hybrid styles, and potentially disastrous ingredient additions. Concerns about commercial viability matter little to the spinner of homegrown tales and bottler of homegrown ales; they’re making for the sake of making, which some might argue, is the purest pursuit there is.
All of this is to say that bloggers and homebrewers are simultaneously consumers and makers, existing in a limbo between the two distinctions, giving them unique perspective on their craft. A blogger with bookish dreams will balance writing with prodigious reading, analyzing structures and themes, just as a homebrewer might sniff and swirl a beer at the bar in a search for potential defects. While mastering the making side, a person has to learn what defines “good” in their field, and imitate, emulate, sometimes downright copy, all to find their own style, which has its roots buried deep in knowing the product and process well. To make, one must first consume. To truly appreciate what you’re consuming, it’s important to know how it’s made.
By transitioning from full-fledged consumer to fledgling maker, you get to see, maybe only briefly, that border where the two worlds meet.
There’s a drawback though. By committing yourself to learning the delicate intricacies of how a product is made, you’re fundamentally altering how you view that topic. After learning to revise grammatically and syntactically, I struggle to read books without trying to analyze the sentences, wondering how and why the author wrote them that way. When I drink a beer, I’m often spending more time considering its constituent malty and hoppy parts as the brewer in me takes over, not just letting it slide down my gullet with simple satisfaction. Once you learn you cannot unlearn, which may (if your mind works anything like mine) somewhat ruin the enjoyment of the product you had when you were only a consumer.
But what you lose in enjoyment, you make up for in the satisfaction of creating something that other people enjoy. It’s a fair trade, I think. The life of a maker is not for everyone, and that’s a good thing, because the aforementioned codependency would fall apart if the maker had no one to make for. Blogging and homebrewing have changed how I approach two of my favorite things in this life, to the point where “I read this” and “I drank this” are less important to me than the simple and inclusive “I made this.”