One Editor's Adventures in Homebrewing
I once owned a Portland brewery called 2 Half Asians.
OK, “brewery” is not really accurate. And all I really owned was a couple of food-grade five-gallon buckets and a stainless steel pot. But I did brew beer in my apartment with my friend—Asian American like me—and we did slap labels on the bottles for our “2 Half Asians Brewing” and force those bottles upon our skeptical friends and family.
We made a lot of lousy beer. Our Righteous Wheat was so bad even we, the brewers, wouldn’t touch the two cases we produced. (My wife, ever the frugal one in our relationship, grimaced and drank each and every bottle over the course of several weeks rather than waste them.)
We also made a couple of really, truly, hand-to-heart good beers that we never succeeded in replicating. That May 2007 Centennial- and Chinook-hopped IPA? You’ll just have to trust me that it was award-winningly good.
Homebrewing occupied a place in my life for a time, and it served its purpose (mainly, procrastinating grad school thesis work). But if I’m honest, I had more fun designing the labels and thinking of silly beer names than actually making the brews. It’s hard, sticky, messy work, especially when your brewery is just a ’70s-era electric kitchen stove in a small, downtown Portland apartment. And it takes forever. Getting the water up to a mere 145 degrees on my stove took more than an hour. Then there’s the cleaning. Let me tell you about the cleaning. The scrubbing, the washing, the sanitizing—of pots, fermenters, hoses, lids, even thermometers—every tiny thing that might come in contact with the beer.
Luckily, 2 Half Asians Brewing is no more. But my homebrewing experience did instill in me a deep respect for the brewers who not only do what I did on a larger scale, but do it so well that people besides their friends and family drink their suds on purpose, and in exchange for money. The fact is, there are countless Portland beers that are good, solid, and totally drinkable, and so few Righteous Wheats. We have such an abundance of good that we appreciate only excellence.
Our July cover story is devoted to all those world-class beers that just happen to be brewed down the street or across town. We asked five Portland beer experts—cicerones to brewers to scene insiders—to curate our must-drink list of the 25 beers of the summer, and we patio-tested the city’s best new breweries. Our news and travel editor, Ramona DeNies, looked at the persistent problem of bro-y, gendered beer marketing—despite the fact that, like my long-suffering wife, more than half of Portland craft beer drinkers identify as female. We literally judged beer by the label and pondered some deep suds questions.
Raise a pint to your brewers, Portland. They deserve it.