This is a question that's been whirring round in my head for a while. It was sort of kickstarted a year or so ago when I stumbled across the PDTNC blog. Adrian is a brewer, and I was particularly taken with his slant on homebrewing - he built a lot of his own homebrew gear, and has also helped others with various bits of kit.
This made me realise that a good (home)brewer wasn't just someone who had a good idea about what might make a good beer, but that they also had a good understanding of the processes that will get you there. A good beer isn't just a good recipe - it's also about the execution of it, and the ability of the brewer to manipulate all the variables in that process, from set-up, through brewing, to clean-up, from the ingredients arriving, to the beer leaving in small or large pack. It's not just about the recipe - its about every step of the way, all the way back to the set-up and purchase of the brewery.
And what of the brewer's job itself? Should that just be confined to the brewhouse? Is it important that brewers are able to talk eloquently about their wares, not just to their peers in the industry, but also to the end consumer? Should brewers be white-coated scientists, or should they be rock stars? Is it necessary, or even desirable, for a brewer to have a microscopic understanding of everything that is going on in the brewing process, so that every batch of beer is the same as the last, or are we prepared to tolerate a few bad batches of usually very good beer, even if those bad batches are brought about by sloppy practice?
When you drink a beer, the way it tastes is the result of a very deliberate set of decisions and precise actions by a brewer. Each bottle of beer you buy in shop, each pint of beer you buy over a bar is a little essay, a story of flavour, aroma, taste and texture, from a brewer to you. Is that liquid love-note enough, or do you want more from your brewers?
What, to you, is a brewer?