Chuck Bino: Selected thoughts on brewing beer

Jan. 20, 2013 @ 03:00 AM

In keeping with my resolve to be more “light” or positive in these columns, Chanel Davis’ work on craft beers last Monday, “Homegrown beer taps a growing market,” tickled some memories about “home brewed” beer, which I’d like to share. 
The homegrown she uses and “home brewed” I do are not the same. The difference is in the consumer and intent; whereas “craft beer” involves many barrels, taxes, and sales to consumers, home brewed is not sold and limited to personal consumption (how much can one consume?). Today’s “lite beer” played a pivotal role in putting both craft and home brewed beers in a more favorable light (pun intended).
Before 1967 there was only real beer, not the reduced alcohol/calorie versions we enjoy less today. Correction: We must drink more of the lite alternative today to get the same enjoyment as one got from the earlier decades.  Miller Lite was devised as a marketing ploy in 1975 with 4 percent or less alcohol to get us to buy more beer.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to reduce the amount of grain (potential alcohol) to make beer without affecting its taste. So, we drank more cheep domestic beer and enjoyed it less.
That national trend to low-cal beers led to the realization by those living west of the Rocky Mountains that they couldn’t care less. Their major brewery, Coors in Golden, Colorado, avoided that mass marketing ploy. Not only did Coors boast of using pure mountain water, but their alcohol level remained up there. They also avoided pasteurizing the beer, as the brewing and bottling processes remained sterile and the bottles/cans weren’t stored for long periods.  It really tasted great!
That led to “beer envy” east of the Rockies and a movie in 1977 called “Smokey and the Bandit.” It became a cult classic with several spinoffs. The plot involved Burt Reynolds and Sally Field hurriedly driving an 18-wheeler loaded with 400 cases of unpasteurized, great-tasting Coors from Colorado to Georgia, while being chased by a bungling sheriff and deputy. The beer was illegal east of the Rockies.
That also led to adventures making and bottling my own beer, which may be worth another column.  My favorites were the dark or stout beers from overseas.  It required using a 46 oz. can of malt extract or concentrate, some special yeast, 5 gallons of water, and leaving it to ferment for a couple weeks. My brewing kit and supplies came from School Kid’s Records on Spring Garden Street in Greensboro. Back in 1980, such a bottle of beer cost me about $0.25 and tasted great most of the time. There were mistakes. Typical yield was 48 long-neck bottles.
One can still brew that way. See http://www.myhomebrewnetwork.com/laaglander-home-brewing-supplies.html and numerous other references online. Local supplies for personal brewing can be found at Big Dan’s Brew shed on N.C. 68 near I-40.
Also, we have a fine club of home brewers called HOPS in town (High Point Observers of Pint Science), which meets at the Liberty Steakhouse on the second Wednesday of each month. See highpointhops.com.
There is some fun beer info out there from studies on the relationship of beer consumption to almost everything including GDP, stress, unemployment, good and bad economic times, depression, the business cycle, etc.  Belgium hosts a “Beeronomics Conference.”
Lastly, there can be life-changing events from exposure to good beer. While brewing in the 1980s at home, I’d sometimes send a case of it back with my daughter, Janis, to Wilmington as she attended UNC-Wilmington. While lab analyzing (sampling) some of my stuff, she met future husband Tim.

Chuck Bino lives in High Point with his wife, Sue, after technical and management careers in manufacturing and retail. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.