Home brewers’ revolt

After a dramatic heart attack, a friend of mine turned to beer. Here he was, a phys-ed teacher, champion master swimmer, surf lifesaver and former national water-polo player confined to a regime of daily blood-thinning medication. So he lost himself in the amber liquid.
Making it, that is, and from my palate’s point of view he is the world’s best brewer. I’ve never drunk better beer than Daberg’s, a two-man partnership Garry Rydberg set up with teacher mate Colin Davis. And he finds it so relaxing – good for the heart.
Out of a tiny tumbledown weatherboard shed in a Melbourne suburban backyard comes ales and lagers, wheat beers and stouts. And they street the stuff sold in pubs, actually possessing rich, complex and magnificent flavours.
Because of the poor standard of commercial beers, which are pathetic by any gastronomic measure, Garry believes there are possibly thousands of home brewers in Australia. They support an infrastructure of equipment and supply shops.
A former kit brewer, I made batches that were OK to good. But the best home beer is made by “mash” brewers like Garry, who start with malted grain, mash it to activate enzymes, “sparge” then boil it, add hops, ferment the brew with yeasts under controlled conditions and store the result in keg or bottle. And drink it, of course. They’re delighted to put in the seven to eight hours the brewing takes.
With a bit of application, most of us could do it. (And hopefully give commercial brewers the rocket they deserve.) Garry says home-brewed beers are better because they’re natural. What goes into mass-produced food and drink is often a mystery, and home brews are free of preservatives for a start. “You don’t get a headache from them after a big night”, he says. (Home-brewed beer has more vitamin B – from yeast – than pasteurised commercial beers.)
Secondly, unlike commercial beers they’re unfiltered, so they can be a little cloudy but of maximum flavour. Thirdly, he makes his brews with the best hops he can buy. (We can only imagine the kinds of economies of scale and quality expediencies commercial brewers employ when they buy hops.)
He makes 25-litre batches of about 30 different brews. His Red Irish bitter and stout are my favorites. Home brewers must be scrupulous about hygiene, he says, wild germs ruining a brew quicker than anything. To control temperatures precisely during fermentation is also critical.

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