Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The absolute rules of home brewing... by Mankind... a letter from an old friend

So last week I got one of those annoying emails from an email service... "Your is about to expire"  Further, "it has been 5 years since you last logged on"  Blah Blah Blah...
The basic message was clear... save any emails you want to keep.  So like an obedient sycophant I logged on to the old account. (some of you younger brewers are in shock... they cant close your account...) well, yes...yes they can.    Anyway, I logged on and began saving 10 to 15 year old pictures of my kids.  Special emails from old friends, and that is when it happened...

Image result for old friend memeI found a folder containing emails from Mankind.  My brewing mentor.   Mankind was one of the funniest guys I ever knew.   At least weekly I think of something funny he said.  Occasionally I run into his son, and we reminisce more about his comedy than his beer.   Most of the emails therefore were jokes, or witty political satire.  But one of them in was about brewing.   I wanted to share it all with you.  Although brewing has advanced in the 12 years or so since this was written.  Much of it is still applicable. He has been gone, 10 years now.  NOTE:  You may not agree with everything he says.  I don't care.  Show respect for this great man and great brewer.  

The email transcript from Mankind.

Mankind’s Absolute Laws of Homebrewing.  As the supreme benevolent magnanimous beneficent and omnipotent ruler of my garage I hereby declare the following laws.  You may consider these canonical and encyclical.  The great and powerful wizard of Mohawk Lane has spoken.  

  1. If you don’t enjoy cleaning your gear, you don’t like brewing… you just like making wort.
  2. If you don’t control your fermentation temperature…you don’t like brewing… you just like making wort.
  3. Brewing is cooking…
    1. taste your mash and your wort
    2. when it tastes good move to the next step (hopefully consumption)
  4. It takes whatever time it takes.  
    1. Mash times,  Fermentation times, carbonation times… all take whatever time they take.  Almost always less or more than the recipe says. So following recipes is for people who don’t or won’t understand.
  5. Brewers make wort,  yeast makes beer… give the yeast what it needs. (mostly nutrients and oxygen)
    1. Yeast doesn’t want to make alcohol.   Yeast “wants” to make more yeast.   To make alcohol you have to ferment at certain temperatures.  Too high or too low… no beer.  Too high… many many bad yucky flavors.  
    2. you are screwing with yeast by making it make alcohol, you can only screw with it a couple of times then it changes and adapts to its new environment.  so don’t reuse yeast forever.
    3. Modern yeast is carefully selected to be more forgiving, but it’s not saintlike… if you hurt it… it will let you know.
  6. Lagers are for losers - in a homebrew sense. But, I could argue that Germany has a huge claim on the title “loser”.
    1. Lager yeast is nearly identical to ale yeast.  You can make a clean beer by choosing a clean ale yeast and fermenting it correctly and at a low end temperature.  
  7. Take a beer… bring a beer
    1. I’m not your mother. If my beer is missing, there had better be something good in there to replace it.  (Natural Light and Bud ICE are not good)
  8. The answer to “want to brew?” is always yes, the answer to “can you brew?” is always yes, the answer to “are you available to brew?” may or may not be yes.
    1. Addendum to law 8.  If you know the code and want to brew feel free.  If I can tell that you were there, other than by the smell of the mash and boil, your privileges are revoked and you will be placed on the flogging list.
  9. Meat does not go in beer. I don’t care what you heard, don’t ask again..
    1. Yes that includes bacon.  Acetobacter is not for breakfast.
  10. Brewing is supposed to be fun.  Don’t be a dick.  Or you go on the flogging list.

So there it is.  An email from a long lost dear friend.   At a moment when it was so good to hear from him.  Because isn't that what beer and brewing are all about?  Good times and friendship?
Mankind taught me so much,  I hope his words teach you something.  Not necessarily about brewing, but rather about being a brewer.  He used to also say, "we brew because we have joy, we make wine because we have hope."  then he would add... "we make cider... because Motts was on sale at PriceChopper". (in a Groucho Marx voice) 


  1. I love reading these. It makes brewing fun. Its like a science project with a consumable prize at the end. Thanks for sharing the notes from your old mentor!

  2. Thanks John. Looking forward to our double batch Sunday...