For the last three years, I’ve managed to occupy an easy niche: I was probably the only English-language blogger seeking out and writing about Bolivian breweries and trying to share homebrewing resources. Alas, the job that took me to Bolivia came to an end and now I’m back in the US, and moving to, of all places, San Diego. These are drastically different contexts: Bolivia has a nascent brewing scene akin to perhaps the US in 1985 or so, while San Diego is arguably the most saturated beer city in the US. The niche that made this blog worth writing has suddenly shrunk. So, change is upon me, and I’ve some ideas to explore here that I think will make it still worth reading. I’m going to change the title.
Through writing about Bolivian beer and thinking through what it might look like to brew an authentically Bolivian beer, I’ve seen that one of the most important things a brewer can do is to welcome certain limitations that that globalization has broken down. For example, I’m back in the US, but the German pale ale malt in my local HBS is cheaper than the locally produced Briess malts. But if I want to try and brew a beer that encapsulates a local identity, clearly I need to set aside the slight economic advantage of the German malts.
With that said, I think the best way to sum up my thesis that brewing local beer requires what might feel like artificial constraints is to rename this blog, Embracing Limitations. The Brewolero was always a terrible pun that no one would really understand unless they followed Bolivian professional soccer and knew of Oriente Petrolero.
I’m going to have to swallow my own bitter pill and embrace some limitations.
That is, I’m coming back to the US to be a graduate student. I.e., on a stricter budget than I was even in Bolivia. So for all the Mecca-level accolades that San Diego draws for its beer, I’ll probably not be able to afford much of it. All the better than to embrace the limitation that is budget, and in so doing, rediscover what brought me to homebrewing in the first place. Nonetheless, I’ll also try to embrace the limitations of geography, and put a good deal of effort into knowing the local HBS when I get to San Diego.
I’ll explore the feelings invoked by walking into a bottle shop with six aisles of beer choices.
Returning to the US means experiencing re-entry shock, and since Bolivia doesn’t really have a bottle shops in the US-beer-sense of the phrase, being here is like seeing a place through foreign eyes (albeit briefly).
I’ve got a bunch of research to synthesize on East Asian beer.
My immediate destination after Bolivia was a three-month “tour” of East Asia, and I went with some goals in mind. I was surprised to find that drinking my way through tens of ~3.8% ABV light lagers was actually very satisfying, among many other things learned.
And finally, maybe I’ll try to be more concise.
But probably not. Truth be told, I was pretty bummed when Boak and Bailey call time on their quarterly calls to go long. Writing for the long form is much more interesting and enjoyable than trying to churn out a bunch of small posts per day. I know that makes me a bad blogger, but it’s not my day job. I’ll try to at least be more concise. Surely being a full-time grad student come September will force my hand either hand. But this has always been a creative outlet for me, so I’ll make the most of it either way.
In the meantime, I have a wide-open summer in Southeastern Wisconsin ahead of me in, perfect for exploring the lengthy brewing traditions of Milwaukee and Chicago, and the chance to drink as much of the only-distributed-in-Wisconsin New Glarus’ beer. Not a bad prospect.