Beer Issue - Abby Jackson, homebrewerWednesday June 10, 2009 09:00 am EDT
Abby Jackson is an unlikely homebrewer. In the first place, there aren’t many female homebrewers. That’s changing as the movement grows, but it’s still a fairly male-dominated hobby. Second, she was never really a beer drinker. “I used to go out and buy Coors Light,” she admits with a laugh.
It’s hard to believe — as Jackson says this, she’s standing at her kitchen counter, drinking a Dunkelweissen she’s brewed, a dark, complex beer that’s about as far from Coors Light as you can get.
Jackson started brewing as a joint hobby with her boyfriend, when she bought him a basic kit for a gift. “There was a homebrew store near my work, and we’re both obsessed with all things culinary. So I bought one for him, and we’ve just gone from there.”
They started out using extracts you can buy to make beers, but went to all-grain brewing after meeting some homebrewers who showed her the ropes. When asked the difference between extract brewing and all-grain brewing, Jackson replies, “It’s kind of like the difference between making a cake from a Betty Crocker mix and making a cake from scratch. All grain is the only way to make it truly your own.”
Like many obsessed brewers, Jackson is now growing her own hops in her back yard. She’s also brewing a lot of mead, the ancient honey beer that’s an acquired taste because of its sweetness and high alcohol content. As she passes me a glass, she warns me, “This stuff will put you in a different state.” The mead smells of sandalwood and jasmine, kind of like a hippie clothing store. The taste is cloying in the middle but finishes with an almost lemony tartness. “I mean, you know how there are different kinds of drunk?” Her eyes widen. “This one is really different.”
When asked why she thinks there aren’t more female homebrewers, Jackson chooses her words carefully. “I think a lot of women haven’t explored a lot of beers, they haven’t had the right beers to get them excited. But also, I think many women are a little afraid of the technical side of it.” Then she becomes animated, proclaiming, “That’s the best part of it, though, especially now that all these beers have come into Georgia since the laws changed. To go out and try these beers and find something you really like, and say, ‘I want to try to make that!’”
But it’s obvious that the social aspect is a huge part of it for her as well. As she talks, she goes back again and again to the community and the culture, the pleasure of making something with other people and to share with other people. She cites it as a stress reliever, and something that helps her escape from her career persona (Jackson works as a paralegal). “The week, that’s about work, and I do yoga during the week,” she says. “But on the weekends, I totally escape from my day job. My weekends are devoted to beer.”