Written by Jerry Buckley. Buckwheat beer brewed by Jerry Buckley
As far back as Aristotle, the scientists and philosophers have insisted that our knowledge of the exterior world is limited to and defined by our sensory perceptions; and that that all sensory input can be compartmentalized into five neat packages: sight, sound, touch, hearing, and taste. However, those of us who home brew for a hobby realize that this is an inadequate explanation for what we understand to be a much “bigger picture.”
Sure, we can feast our eyes on the sensuous ruby hues of CaraRed barley, or the occult darkness of chocolate malt. We can ogle the vibrant color of the orange peel we are “zesting” to add to our boil. Moreover, I don’t know about you, but watching a good krausen orgy in my carboy is far more entertaining than watching most television programs.
We can savor the earthy aromas of our grain bill as we stir it into our mash tun; and then later on, we get to anticipate the “final answer”, as the bubbly goodness of our finished product foams the vacancy in the bottom of our glass, filling our “nose-smeller” with a bouquet of goodness.
Then there is that most refreshing sensation, as that first swallow of home brew quenches our parched throat. Moreover, how can you adequately describe the very real sensation of a perfectly balanced “mouth feel”; signifying just the right amount of oats blended into a starchy stout.
It is no accident that every beer commercial on television or radio, unequivocally incorporates an amplified recording of a “chug-a-lug” gurgling gargle of a bottled beer being poured straight into a tall pub glass. This sound effect alone is primarily responsible for millions, if not billions in realized advertising revenue each year, in the United States along. And how sexy is that slowly released hissing “yeessss”; as the cap is slowly pried off a chilled bottle-conditioned brew? How do you spell “anticipation”?
All of these comforting sensory inputs are of course nothing short of foreplay for the real reward; the tasting of our delicious home brewed product; the perfect balance of sweet malt on the tip of our tongue, and bitter hop aftertaste on the back half; then there is that just right balance of “fruitiness” and “dryness”, depending on your preference. Heck fire, that’s why they call it “taste”: mine varies from day to day, from one minute to then next, according to what’s for dinner, and of course, upon how hot and thirsty I happen to be at the moment.
I am a novice brewer, and I have yet to brew up a batch that did not taste better than your run-of-the- mill store bought product. I’m not bragging here, it’s “just the facts, maam.”
So now, I have come to that part of the lecture where must part ways with the Aristotle, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, and the rest of the brain trust. There is more to this homebrew experience than the “five senses” can account for. As surely as hops are bitter, there is that extra sensory dimension in play here; call it a “sixth sense” if you please; a certain feel-good glow that emanates from your mercy seat, after imbibing the fruits of your labor. This sensation engenders an enhanced contentment with our surroundings, with our fellows, and with the world at large. There is also a palatable sense of pride and connectedness with nature, which comes from our combining a few simple ingredients with some natural principles and our own creative impulses; to yield a holistic end product. As Kurt Koffka would have said, “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”
So then, this claptrap about the five senses just does not “get it” for me; it is bigger than that, more complex and mysterious, yet as concrete as the foamy head on my oatmeal stout. So, “come to your senses man!” Brew up another batch of home brew, and share it with your friends.