By George Hummel

Here in the 21st century of craft beer, folks often ask me why I started homebrewing, and they seem taken aback by my reply: Because it was hard to get good beer in Philly. The reality of the late ’70s/early ’80s beer market in Philly isn’t even a distant memory in the 21stcentury.

The facts are there were big brands and regional breweries augmented by a smattering of imports. When you weeded out the ones that were the same as US beers (Canada, South/Central America, and Asia) you were left with a handful of German and British beers, eventually joined by a couple of Belgians. And of course, with such off the radar beers, freshness was often an issue.

When I visited San Francisco to see the Grateful Dead close down Winterland Ballroom, I enjoyed my first taste of early West Coast craft beers. I was particularly smitten by Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Upon returning home, I discovered Anchor Brewing beers were in the market, but you’d have to track them down and freshness was a gamble. The closest place for Sierra was in Washington D.C. My wife, Nancy, had a sales gig that periodically took her to DC, and she would humor me.

Well, I read somewhere that the guys from Sierra started out as homebrewers and it wasn’t long before my dulled brain said, “Hey, if these dudes could make their beer at home, why can’t I?!” So it was to slake my thirst with a steady supply of fresh Cascade-scented West Coast Pale Ale that drew me to the hobby/lifestyle.

Now, of course, walk into a beer retailer and you’ll find any number of beers that fit that description. Although I must note with such bloated shelves, freshness is again a concern. So you might ask, “Why do you continue to brew?”

There are many reasons. First of all, there’s a primal kind of Zen to the process. It slows down your