Business cards are often the exclamation marks ending good conversations on airplanes, at events, or more commonly, at breweries and brewpubs around the country. While judging beer and hanging out with home brewers at the annual Dixie Cup in Houston last week, I pulled one of those cards to use as a bookmark.
The card was for San Antonian Oscar Carrero, whom I had met while enjoying a pint at Freetail Brewing Co. a while back. Oscar had recently begun a journey of his own that could also have been easily called an ambitious brew. He was setting out to homebrew a different style of beer every week for 52 weeks.
Several hours after unearthing that card, I found myself face to face with Oscar and his wife Sherry more than 200 miles from our respective home cities. An eerie coincidence, indeed.
Carrero began brewing out of necessity when he and Sherry moved to San Antonio and were unable to find several beer styles they had enjoyed at stores and pubs along the Mid-Atlantic coast. But in late 2009, he had a revelation that while he was brewing fairly well, he really didn’t have a good sense of what made the more than 80 beer styles what they were.
He called his wife at work and told her his “crazy” idea. By December, they had a game plan and a few ground rules to follow. The plan has changed, shortcuts have been learned, and sacrifices made, but 41 weeks into the project he has made 41 different beer styles, from long-fermenting lagers to high-temperature fermenting Belgian ales.
Most batches are 5 gallons and a few are smaller, but it’s still a lot of beer to consume. A toga party with friends brought out volunteers to sip on the first 14, and other tastings have helped thin the inventory over time. “I’ve learned along the way that there is a beer out there for everybody,” Carrero said of converting people who either thought they didn’t like beer or had long stuck to mass-produced light beers.
The venture takes about 30 hours a week of cleaning, brewing, and kegging or bottling before planning for the next brew. He also has begun entering homebrew competitions, taking the silver last weekend at the venerable Dixie Cup in Houston for his first-ever German wheat beer.
But the competitions provide a larger purpose than glory during this “year of beer.” Carrero’s in it for the “non-biased commentary on the beers I brew. If you’re going to improve, you have to get a straight answer.”
You can read more about Carrero’s adventures in brewing on his blog at weeklyhomebrew.com. “It’s been fun, but next year, I’m not doing anything that crazy,” he says. •
Travis E. Poling writes about beer weekly for the Current. He is author of Beer Across Texas: A Guide to the Brews and Brewmasters of the Lone Star State and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org