Relax, Don’t Worry, and Don’t Homebrew It, Dude
The brewers at Los Angeles Ale Works (LAAW), all accomplished and awarded homebrewers, have a brew-day mantra that helps keep their minds on the task at hand: “Don’t homebrew it, dude!”
It’s a tongue-in-cheek reminder that while the job is bigger and stakes higher, they’re still just making beer. “It’s become a catchphrase,” says LAAW Barrel Director Brian Holter—a joke whenever they hit a bump in the road during a brew day. Homebrewers have to be creative when solving problems, and the decades of combined homebrewing experience have given the LAAW team confidence that they can come up with solutions for the seemingly endless stream of issues that a start-up brewery must face.
“We can’t do everything that we want to do as soon as we want,” says Cofounder Kristofor Barnes. Whether the brewers are constrained by time or money or, increasingly, energy, they draw on homebrewing successes and failures as inspiration for solutions. The trick, Holter explains, is to solve a problem the way a homebrewer might—by repurposing a piece of equipment in an imaginative way or with some quick thinking when a substitution or brewhouse adjustment is needed.
The “don’t homebrew it” rebuke or, alternatively, an “I had to homebrew that” admission, is akin to the homebrewer’s mantra—“relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew.” It’s spoken to acknowledge both the use of a less-than-ideal solution and the extra care that’s being taken to get it right. After all, a critical mistake doesn’t just mean a wasted afternoon and 5 gallons of wort down the drain.
A gaffe can impact not only one 10-barrel batch of beer, but could also cause a domino effect in the whole production schedule. “It can be a little scary,” Holter admits. But the homebrew mindset can be freeing. “We learned as homebrewers to not take no for an answer,” Holter says. “We find a way to make it work.”