I'm a craft beer nerd. My friends either tune me out or stare at me perplexed when I'm going on and on about a recipe I'm formulating or a fermentation schedule I'm contemplating. I've gotten used to seeing people's eyes glaze over as I wax philosophical about head retention and lacing, identifying an off-flavor and using words that sound like they belong in another language. It happened this weekend when I was talking about phenolic qualities of some saisons. It's partially why I write. It's another creative outlet for my hobby. It also allows me to share what I've learned while affirming that knowledge.
When I fell in love with craft beer, it was hard and fast. From reading books with an overall assessment of beer and the industry such as Beer for Dummies and Great American Craft Beer to listening to podcasts on the Brewing Network or Brooklyn local Heritage Radio Network programs to watching YouTube videos and consulting longTime brewers in online forums, there was a wealth of information out there just waiting for me to turn into knowledge.
I remember back to when I had my first catastrophe in the middle of the night. I had a yeast blow out (when the yeast activity is so vigorous, krausen spills into your air lock, or worse blowing the lid or stopper out of your fermenting vessel exposing it to oxygen). Had it not been for the Internet, I might have panicked and further endangered my fermenting wort. A quick google search came upon a homebrew forum where a kind experienced homebrewer who had been there and done that was able to supply a quick solution (a blow off tube) and saved the day. The Internet was a useful tool when I started brewing beer. As a result, I try to pay it forward by answering questions on Facebook groups and am always happy to share recipes and give advice based on my own experience,
Don't be surprised if a brewer you admire is willing to share their process and even their recipe with you. Many brewers, particularly homebrewers -- myself included, think sharing is what brewing is about. My buddy Xavi and I brewed a beer once and he texted me late one night feeling awkward because someone wanted our recipe he didn't know what to tell the person. My answer was an easy one. "give it to him".
I love sharing my recipes. I use an iPad app to build my recipes and I can easily email a copy to anyone who has an email address. Sharing my beer helps me out in 2 ways. First, it gives me a backup copy in my sent mail in case something happens to my tablet before I back up to Dropbox. Secondly, if the person I give it to makes my recipe better, then not only will I have a better beer to drink, I have an opportunity to learn from their technique and thereby make my beer better. Win-win-win.
Sure there are those professional brewers who carefully guard their recipes, and in a certain light I can understand why. Most breweries, and especially most homebrewers, though share recipes and use that to learn from one another. There is a real sense of community and a true belief in the philosophy that a rising tide buoys all ships. You can see it in the collaborations that are taking place all over the country, from a beer made specifically for Seattle Beer Week to last year's Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across America series, the coming together of a community can be seen all over. Bringing people together is what beer is all about.