Fermented drinks have been around for millennia. Our ancestors drank crudely fermented fruit, plant, and grain beverages since the start of civilization, and their fermenting innovations may even have "caused" civilization itself. These days, it is easier than ever to stop by one's local convenience store to buy a commercially produced and packaged version of one of these beverages, most commonly beer or wine. So then why would one engage in the effort necessary to brew at home? There are many reasons.
"Brewing beer is a form of cooking"
The first I can provide is that brewing is simply an enjoyable process. Brewing beer is a form of cooking, and one who chooses to brew most likely attains a similar enjoyment as one who cooks instead of eating out. Understanding the components & the steps required to achieve an end culinary product surely broadens the mind and helps fine-tune the palate.
"A chili beer? A beer with cucumber & mint? A blue beer? "
Secondly, homebrewing provides endless possibilities to create any beer possible. A chili beer? A beer with cucumber & mint? A blue beer? With the skills of homebrewing at hand, you now have the freedom to add whatever ingredients you like to your recipes to make beers that are otherwise impossible to find.
"Homebrewing is typically a social event"
Next, homebrewing is typically a social event. Even if every brew day is not a massive party, having a dedicated brewing partner can result in the development a strong working relationship. Brewing can be as easy or intense as one wishes, and therefore I believe finding a partner with the same expectations is key. A friend’s report on homebrewing in New York City found after surveying that the top reason people start homebrewing is for social validation, and the top reason people stop brewing is because they lost their brewing partner - both profoundly social reasons. The Holy Grail would be finding a life partner who is likewise interested in the mastering of mashing, but that is only for the luckiest of couples.
"Homebrewing can be a less expensive form of beer consumption in the long run"
Not quite as obvious, homebrewing can be a less expensive form of beer consumption in the long run. Once sufficient equipment is purchased, producing a relatively simple beer with a straightforward recipe will most likely be cheaper per-glass to make it at home than buying the equivalent in a store. For this to be true, you will probably need to produce at least 10-gallon batches.
"What is better than a lively just-finished homebrew?"
Lastly, and perhaps the most overlooked, are the health benefits of homebrew. There are several facets to this argument. Most commercial beer is filtered, which removes yeast sediment and vital vitamin B. Unfiltered beer in the store is typically old, so even though the healthy yeast is present, it is dead. I personally believe, along with prominent food writers like Michael Pollan, that there are strong health benefits to food and drink that is still “alive” and naturally probiotic, and what is better than a lively just-finished homebrew. And, much more simply, making beer at home allows one to know exactly what is going into the drink. You can choose to use entirely organic ingredients, to filter the water, and to omit questionable ingredients like fining or clarification agents.
So, for the sake of your health and many other reasons, consider patronizing your local homebrew store (or wine-making store, or pickling) to source the building blocks for your own hand-made beverage.
Jeffrey Michael, known as The Biking Brewer, is Certified with the Beer Judge Certification Program, having judged over twenty homebrew competitions over the past ten years. Also a trained sommelier and student of the French Culinary Institute, he frequently travels to uncommon parts of the globe in search of new fermented beverages. He tweets at @TheBikingBrewer and posts at www.facebook/TheBikingBrewer.