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A Critic

You make a very strong case that it is not practical to grow the ingredients for all beers in your back yard. However, since hops and barley are easy crops...your case that it's not practical to grow any ingredients is weak at best.

My grandfather grew and brewed his own beer. This year I shall try to do the same, following in the footsteps of hundreds of generations of my forefathers. It sure seems to me that if they could do it with far fewer resources than what I have than I can do it too.

H. Mark Delman

Thanks for your comment. Actually, I think we are in closer agreement than you think. If all you want to do is grow your own hops, thats a snap and it would be easy to grow a good variety of hops for both bitterness and aroma. You could buy whatever barley you need from a brew shop and make some great beer. Totally agree with you on that.

If you also want to grow barley, you can do that as well, but malting that barley is more difficult. Still do-able, but the beer you would make would need to be comprised of just one malt style. I say this because I think it very unlikely that any home-grower would be able to create a broad array of malts because its so labor intensive. So, I would also agree with your point that you can make beer with your own
home-grown ingredients but I do think its going to be a fairly simple beer and its going to be necessarily one style.

For me anyway, I like making lots of different beer styles and have a range of beer types on tap at any given time (stout, pale ales, porter, bock, wheat beer etc.) Trying to grow and malt the barley for that diverse a mix would be an enormous challenge. In my opinion, well beyond what a suburban homeowner could really do. So when I say, you cant make beer from home grown ingredients, what Im really saying is that hobbyist brewers, who want to make complex recipes, or switch things up, need to buy the ingredients from a brew store.

By the way, please let us know a little more about the history of beer making in your family. It sounds pretty interesting.

Abbey Normal

Seems like a good argument for collaboration rather than trying to do it all in one yard.

#2 and #3 can be overcome if you can find even a handful of people to distribute several varieties across.

#1 and #4 seem to me about experience and willingness to experiment (note: if you also want variety, this will involve some amount of failure and inconsistency).

Not that its a cakewalk...
1. As with anything, time/effort is a factor. Investing in growing a variety of hops you'll only need a few ounces of may simply not be worth it - but why let that stop you from growing the bulk of the ingredients?
2. Small scale production of grains that require threshing and winnowing (most barley and wheat) *is* pretty labor intensive. People managed to do it for thousands of years, so certainly not impossible... but again, way easier as an effort of groups of people.

Basically, if you want huge variety, agriculture as an individual exercise isn't going to be sufficient. This doesn't have to mean running to the store, though, it could also mean trading with a friend.

H. Mark Delman

Point well taken about collaborating with others and exchanging. I think thats a much more pragmatic idea than doing everything on your own.

Joel Wiard

First of all thanks for writing on the subject! I am a home brewer and small scale gardener. I was thinking why not try to grow my own barley, hops and really make my own beer? I don't think anyone trying to do such a thing is trying to compete with all the other brewers out there by making the best of any style beer thinkable. I think most home brewers just want to create and enjoy beer! And if using two styles of hops and one barley is all you have to work with, it still might just turnout delicious! Of coarse all this is still not going to be practical, especially since I spent about 3 hours yesterday removing about 1 lb of grain from my barley stalks. Only 30 more hours and I will have the grain to make the 5 gal batch I have been dreaming about! Maybe a smaller batch to start would be better! Either way, just to be able create a batch of beer from home grown ingredients is very intriguing for me! This may be my last time trying this, but there will be a first!

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