I see a lot of beer in your future. And considering that yesterday was Independence Day in America, I see a lot of beer in your past too! Despite its ancient roots and global appeal, there is nothing more American than beer. Grilling out? You drink a beer. Exploding things? You drink a beer. Going to go open a can of whoop ass on the neighbors? You drink a beer. Going to ritual? Of course, you’re going to drink a beer!
I love beer. Beer is probably my favorite beverage. In the words of my partner, beer is perfect because it’s liquid bread. That’s how many ancient cultures, including the Egyptians whom some sources claim invented beer, viewed the mystical liquid.
While home brewing beer is not as popular amongst Pagans as making mead or wine, it is incredibly popular all over the United States. Yuppies, in particular, seem obsessed with seeing how many specialty beers they can come up with. Pay attention the next time a Samuel Adams commercial comes on. The ads rarely advertise the same beer twice since they are constantly switching out their seasonal brews (because only poor people drink the same beer all the time).
Hawthorne, a Pagan who has been brewing beer at home since 1995, enjoys playing with the wide varieties of beer that can be produced at home. “I tend to brew types/flavors you can’t buy in the store. My favorites are an American style brown ale, a spruce beer, and a lemon beer. The lemon beer was an experimental batch last year. This year I made a batch with basil, oregano, and rosemary – people tell me it tastes like pizza. I tend to agree. ”
Even though Hawthorne describes himself as Wiccan, he keeps his brewing life and Pagan life separate–or at least so far.
While witch’s brews may not always be simple, brewing beer is more simple than a lot of people realize.
“Bring water to a boil, stir in barley malt and hops for bittering. Constantly stirring, boil for a while. During the last 2 – 5 minutes, add more hops for flavor or aroma. Pour into a fermenter with additional water, and seal to prevent bacterial contamination. When it’s about room temp, add brewing yeast. Wait 1 – 2 weeks for fermentation to complete, add some boiled water with corn sugar to the fermenter, and bottle. The beer should be carbonated in 3 days – 2 weeks. I tend to wait at least a couple weeks to allow maximum carbonation. If you can, wait a couple months to give the flavor a chance to smooth out.
That’s the very basic process – you can make it much more complex like the commercial brewers if you have the time and energy.
” The Internet is a great resource [for more information], but most cities have at least one home brew store. You can also find Zymurgy magazine around – zymurgy is the science of brewing.”
Like anything dealing with alcohol, there are legalities. “You can legally brew up to 200 gallons per year for personal use, no licensing or permission required, provided you are over 21. To sell any of it, you have to be licensed, but you can purchase a licence to sell up to 500 gallons before you’re classified as a commercial operation.”
Brewing can also be a fairly cheap hobby. ”If you’re frugal and get a kit, you can get in with an initial investment of $100 or so. The cost to brew a 5 gallon batch (about 2 1/2 cases) is about $40-50 or more, depending on how fancy you want to get.”
Ever get bitched at for not pouring a beer right? Ever wondered what the fuck did it matter if you were just going to drink it, piss it, and drink another one? Hawthorne has the answer to that. ”The best way is to get the right beer glass – it usually has a slight bulge that ends just below the lip of the glass. Those you can pour straight in the glass. Otherwise, tilt the glass a bit while pouring the beer in to prevent excessive foaming – too much head makes it harder to drink, or worse, overflows the glass.” (Too much head makes everything harder to drink and always overflows the glass!)
So, crack open a beer, sit out under the stars, and have your own private esbat tonight. Don’t forget to libate!
These folks know about getting their balls wet: