First, let the record show that we are still technically homebrewers. But after being entrenched in the homebrewing culture for a few years now, and after having some exposure to the professional brewing culture as well, we thought it might be interesting to point out one of the fundamental differences between the two. There are obviously more differences, some of which I’m sure we will probably learn the hard way.
While we homebrew (only brewing small batches and never selling anything), we approach the art with a focus on the future, specifically commercial production. What does this mean? Realistically we will only be able to launch with a few beers (we are targeting two), and so we need those two beers to be as good as they can possibly get.
Homebrewing traditionally has been a bastion of experimentation and creative expression. Charlie Papazian’s phrase, “Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew,” has become a rallying cry to many homebrewers. Homebrewers embrace the unexpected and even seek it out in their beers.
We, however, have been brewing the same couple beers with only minor tweaks in controlled environments for years now. After becoming relatively comfortable with an initial recipe, it has been our blessing and curse to massage every last drop of goodness out of that recipe that we can. We brew the same IPA, over and over, trying to get it one iota closer to where we want it to be. Once we’re past the concept phase, we brew for consistency, not creativity.
Most commercial breweries (even craft breweries) deal with this same truth. It isn’t uncommon for a particular beer to be 70-80% of a craft brewery’s sales. Think Fat Tire from New Belgium. Or closer to home, 420 from Sweetwater. In those cases, the time for experimentation are indeed over, and consistency is the key to success.
That’s not to say that the two viewpoints are mutually exclusive. This great article points to the fact that many craft breweries are still rooted in homebrewing:
?I?d say over 90 percent of small brewers I talk to today have roots in home brewing,? says Papazian, who now serves as president of the Brewers Association, a trade group. ?The creativity and innovation they?ve brought to the business has been amazing. The American wheat beers. The fruit beers, the honey beers, the chocolate beers. They were all homebrews first.?
In fact, much of the craft beer revolution we’ve experienced in the U.S. grew out of a response against the bland macro lagers. Creativity is a natural part of this uprising. But once you make it, you need to make it consistently or you’ll be going home.
Brewing for consistency can wear on you. We obviously look forward to the day when actual production will free up our homebrewing to experiment more (time permitting). But for now, we’ve embraced this necessary dichotomy at Monday Night Brewery. We work hard to create not great beers, but consistently great beers.
Thoughts from any homebrewers or professional brewers out there? We’d love to hear them.