Housebroken: Home Brew Hoopla

Joe Blundo

I'm feeling some social pressure to join the home-brewing craze.

Actually, I should say re-join because I was in on the first wave, in the 1970s. It did not go well.

Somehow, I got the idea that I could make wine. I knew that French vintners spent their lives learning what combination of soil, temperature, grape and oak barrel produced an acceptable product. Yet, I reasoned that I could do the same thing with $19.99 worth of grape juice, plastic tubing and buckets.

The wine was, predictably, awful, and I drank very little of it, mainly because most of it leaked away when the corks let loose on the bottles.

This would have been disappointing under the best of circumstances. In my case, because I had stored the bottles on their sides in a bedroom closet, it was almost marriage-ending. It's a good thing they were my clothes and not hers.

From there, I moved onto beer.

That time nothing exploded in the making and within a few weeks I had a couple of cases of an amber elixir that delighted the eye. Of course, you don't drink beer with your eye.

It was bitter. I mean bitter to the point that I resolved to finish every last bottle with the same grim determination that some people resolve to run 150 miles through Death Valley.

I quit well before the finish line.

Shortly thereafter our first child was born (the exploding wine failed to kill the marriage) and that was the end of idle pursuits involving yeast. So there's another blessing of parenthood: It keeps you too busy to make undrinkable beverages.

But now the kids have grown, and I find myself with more time and seemingly surrounded by home brewers. It feels like every other person I meet has a keg of lager fermenting in the garage or several casks of homemade wine aging the basement. Some of it even tastes good. It makes me wonder what I'm missing out on.

So far, though, I'm resisting the urge to join in, mostly on pragmatic grounds.

The variety of wine and beer available in Columbus is astounding. If I want a pumpkin-flavored ale with hints of turmeric, elderberry and jicama root, I can probably find it. It's taken away some of the incentive for doing it myself.

On the other hand, there is the mastery urge. The mastery urge is this overwhelming desire to figure out how to do something. I've had mastery urges for making Chinese pot-stickers (success!), learning the back stroke (success!) and soldering copper water pipe (call a plumber!).

I still have a bit of a mastery urge for beer- or wine-making. If I could turn out even one acceptable batch, it would bring a certain sense of fulfillment. And if I could do it without ruining a closet full of clothes - all the better.

-Joe Blundo's columnSo to Speak appears in the Life section of The Columbus Dispatch. Visit his blog