Beer and Aprons

This piece originally ran in the Four Peaks Brewsletter.

A year ago, I never thought too much about aprons. That was before a chef asked me to help him fix his so the straps fit better. I ended up making him one from scratch with pockets, sizing, and colors that fit him and him alone. It didn’t take long before others wanted customized aprons and I quickly learned that they aren’t just for cooks and waitresses. For nearly every craft there is an apron to match.

A year ago I was thinking a lot about beer. After years of sampling craft beers around the world, I started home brewing. I was actively involved (and still am) with the Arizona Society of Homebrewers and learning more about process and results than tasting can give you.  By August, my apron hobby was becoming an apron business, I had a handful of brews under my belt, and the ladies of ASH held its annual Queen of Beer brewout. I was the only one wearing an apron.

It’s not that brewing is a tidy task. It can be dusty, sticky and wet. There is also a lot to track, from temperature and gravity to time of your boil. So why does the mode de style seem to be an old T-shirts and jeans?

Search for “brewing apron” online and you can take your pick of cheap aprons with funny beer sayings and pictures of hops, but none designed specifically for the making of beer. European vintage websites and Belgian breweries seem to the be only hint that brewers once wore aprons – and those were appropriately jerry-rigged using string and old grain bags.

If there is a brewer “uniform” today – something we would wear to protect clothing and keep tools handy – it is the bowling shirt. There is no doubt that this look is stylish on men and fits a typical brewer’s size (think broad shoulders from lifting grain bags and a healthy waistline from sampling the product). But it has its limits and isn’t always flattering for the growing number of women brewers.

I’ll tell you a little secret. Aprons are hardly rocket science. But there are tricks of the trade to personalize them, make them specific to a certain use, and size them to fit someone of any proportions comfortably. I spoke with several of my homebrewing friends and local brewers. The commonalities of needs started to emerge as well as the options for styles and colors.

This month, aprons continue to surprise me by linking pieces of my life together in ways I never imagined. We're excited to debut a line of brewer’s aprons with a split side pocket sized to hold a notebook on one side and a refractor on the other. There's a slender chest pocket for pens and thermometers, a towel loop and a new razorback tie that eliminates the traditional neck loop. The over the should straps cross in the back and can tie behind the back or wrap to the front.

These days, my thoughts always come back around to aprons. But the beer is always within reach.