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Putting a Personal Spin on the World’s Trajectory

There’s something like Zen in the art of beer making

       “Home brewers may dream of quitting their day jobs to live off the fruits of their fermentation,” I write in this week’s feature story.
      In Homebrew to Microbrew, you’ll read about those dreams and how they fit in the lives of four Chesapeake Country neighbors. I think you’ll find these brewers likeable, as I did, and I hope you make opportunity to find their brews drinkable. 
       A dream to dream, an occupation for hands and mind and good beer to drink: All those good reasons explain the appeal of home and craft brewing.
      There’s more motive in the craft, I realized in the interviews, reflection and not enough tasting that went into this story.
        For this was a week the larger forces in our world did not want to be ignored. From nuclear brinkmanship all over again … to worldwide terrorism … to deadly mudslides … to standing off over immigration … to federal shutdown, there’s a whole lot going on to scare a person.
       Makes you realize you’re stuck by gravity to the surface of a planet rotating at 1,000 miles an hour in a cold, infinite vastness. From the alignment of the spheres to when the mail comes, the world goes about much of its business without asking our permission.
      All this spinning affects us in countless estimable and inestimable ways. Mostly there’s not a thing we can do about it.
      Beyond acts of God, experts and supposed experts are pulling the levers and stepping on the gas. Mostly, they’re running the world for their special interests.
       Could you or I have kept the federal government running smoothly, even — perhaps — helping us out in tangible ways? Not on this timetable.
      Fires and mudslides, rising oceans and weird weather we probably do have a hand in, but cause and effect are at such a distance that we’ve got to look ahead rather than back on changing how we put our hands on the world.
       So you can see the appeal of making a batch of beer. It helps you approach autonomy.
      In the first place, doing it at all is a decision. Brewing beer isn’t like cooking, though it may be like making wine. Until the rise of fast food, cooking was a daily necessity. You might have cooked well, but first and foremost you cooked to feed your family.
      Beer you could go out and buy, from a glass or bucket at the local tavern to a six-pack of Bud at the liquor store and even drug and grocery stores. Over the century since American Prohibition, beer making has tended to conglomeration, with fewer beer brewers serving more beer drinkers.
      The home brewer — and at the next step up, the microbrewer — is taking control, saying, I want to do that myself. Once you’ve got the knack down, step by step you can edge from the Christmas kit to scratch. Part of that process may be seeking ingredients closer and closer to their sources. Thus, the stories I’m hearing of home gardeners raising hops for home-brewed beer. 
       Not that brewing is a two-plus-two-equals-four science. 
       Beer may cooperate with its maker, but it’s always its own master. As home-brewer Mike Brewer notes, “something as small as a difference in fermenting temperature can alter the flavor profile, so though I usually have an idea of a style’s taste, the specific flavor is a little surprise.”
       That there’s an art to this craft must make it more appealing, adding challenge. Certainly a drinkable, even prize-winning, result enhances the appeal. 
       Maybe that’s all there is to it. But it’s nice to think, while you make and drink, that you’re putting a bit of a personal spin on this world’s trajectory.