Is All-Grain Brewing Better?


I get asked the question, “Is all-grain brewing that much better?” a lot.  Like a lot a lot.  Thanks to forums, people I feel sometimes get shamed for not doing all-grain.  Well I’m here to let you know, and this may hurt some sensitive extract brewer’s feelings, All-Grain Brewing IS that much better.  Commence the flaming!

Extract brewing is good, like how the Denver Broncos were good this past season.  Extract tastes alright, has a pretty good quarterback, and can make it to the SuperBowl.  All in all you think, hey those Bronco’s are something else!  Then All-Grain shows up and makes you ever wonder why you doubted the other option.

So you’re probably pondering, well why does anybody brew with extract to begin with? Unfortunately, not every brewer has the requisite 4 plus hours to commit to an all grain brew sesh.  All grain has a lot of setup, cleanup, more cleanup, and monitoring involved; and it’s not the easiest thing to do in your kitchen.  Extract brewers however can churn out a pitch-able brew in less than 2 hours, only need one pot, and usually hit their marks.  Point extract!

My problem with extract really stems from what I see beer as being all about, and how Extract takes that conception and twerks it like Miley Cyrus on molly.  Beer is beautiful in its simplicity; you take four simple ingredients and turn them into a drink loved universally; brewed by people of all cultures, nations and histories.  You’re using the same techniques that Trappist monks, German Brewmasters, and hobbits in Middle Earth have used for centuries.  Extract subverts the time, work, and dedication from this process and overall cheapens the process and the final product.

Forest Elf

Apparently hobbit’s use palm pilots? (gotta love stock images)

That’s not to say that I haven’t had good extract beers, you can definitely make a perty darn good product, but is that what you’re really going after?  Are you striving for perfection, or settling for mediocrity?  If you’re really happy with an “Ok” beer, then why are you bothering making it all instead of picking up a sixer at your favorite gas station?

I’m sure that by now some of you are typing your response so furiously that you’re two keystrokes away from a weekend of Carpal Tunnel.  Yea yea I may not be able to tell the difference between an AG or Extract beer in a blind taste test, and yea yea it has this benefit  or that yada yada yada…  For me, when I find out that a beer was brewed with extract, it’s cheapening.  A shortcut was taken, and no matter how you justify it, it’s still a shortcut.   I appreciate good beer not only for its complexity and flavors, I appreciate the work that went into it, knowing that the brewer has mastered his art and poured his heart into making that beer.  (Note:  Heart’s tend not to pour easily, always blend first)

Finally beyond the existential musings of grain I think of Extract as a processed product.  Next time you bake a cake, try using powdered milk instead of regular.  Or instead of grilling steaks, consider using some pink slime hot dogs.  Tastes pretty good right?  Keep thinking that while you repeat the words “pink slime” over and over in a self induced foodie convulsion.

Ellie 2

Or Black Slime Hot Dogs…

 

For those of you who can’t read between the lines (or just simply, the lines) I’ll conclude with the following:  Don’t use extract.  If you’re gonna do something, do it right.  Lastly, for all the newbies to brewing; consider yourself excused from all of the above, but you’ve been warned.

 

– Brohiem, Brewer of Beer, Destroyer of Dreams

 

 

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6 Responses to “Is All-Grain Brewing Better?”

  1. Rob Woodman Says:

    Since getting started in brewing I contemplated getting into All Grain but time has been my perceived enemy. However, I have been edging closer to the day by making a mash paddle, tun and stir plate but your post has convinced me to just go for it. Extract is like running a bike with training wheels, but I’m ready to go racing! Cool post.

  2. Derek Says:

    Ya it’s fun. I do both. My buddy wrote up this article he does all-grain only. If you are having fun and making beer that taste good don’t feel bad about what you are doing. Doing all-grain though does add a sense of pride to the process and is more, “organic” from start to finish. Pretty cool. If you are interested in it, we have a whole series on how to make the jump. “extract to all-grain

  3. Kevin Says:

    If you are daunted in making the jump from extract to AG, consider brew in a bag. The only extra equipment you need is a fine-mesh bag, a good thermometer (if you don’t already have one), and a bigger kettle. In fact, your 5-gallon kettle will work fine for 2.5-3 gallon batches, which you can do on your stove.

    But for 5-gallon batches, you will need at least a 10 gallon kettle and a propane burner. The brew day will be a little longer, but the simplicity of BIAB is one of its biggest draws.

  4. Derek Says:

    Very true. Brew in a bag makes life pretty easy. I went though a pretty big phase of also making the half batches because you don’t burn out of your beer. If you like brewing more then drinking then its the way to go. I find that brewing process and creating a recipe is more satisfying then drinking it. So for me, 2.5 gallon batches aren’t bad at all – you get a lot of variety of beers in your house. Or you can make a brown then just use the same grains and make a mild out of it or something like that too, and if you are low in OG beyond belief just add small bag of DME or something to it.

  5. brado Says:

    Great blog! I am impressed!

  6. Nowhere Brewer Says:

    Derek,

    I’m with you about the “brewing process & recipe creation is more satisfying than drinking it.”

    And, Brew in a Bag makes my life oh-so much easier! I never use my homemade mash tun anymore.

    I’ve found a couple of ways to quench this idea (of process & creation versus drinking):

    1.) Making “big beers” that get better with age: barleywines, Belgian strongs, etc. Let them sit in the basement & age.

    2.) Making “split batches” of the same beer, but tweaking the recipes at the end. Split batch & use two different yeasts. Split batch & add fruit to one of them. Split batch & add brett to one of them. Split batch & dry hop one of them. Etc.

    3.) Make odd beers in small batches: stein beers, gose, etc. There’s a comfort in making something that might–just might–taste terrible & only having to dump 2 or 3 gallons (versus 5 or 10 gallons).

    Nowhere Brewer

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