10 Things Brewmaster Annie Johnson Can't Live Without | Innovation | Smithsonian
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(Annie Johnson and Flickr user QuinnDombrowski)

10 Things Brewmaster Annie Johnson Can't Live Without

From kettles to apps, flasks to forums, these resources help the Sacramento-based home chemist concoct her award-winning beers

smithsonian.com
Ever wonder what makes inventors tick? We’re talking with innovators and forward-thinkers to learn about the tools of their trades—and other gizmos that inspire them to create.
Finding the right balance between hops and malts has long been big business, but now it has become a delicious art form. For many Americans, at last count more than one million, making beer or wine at home has become a hobby akin to gardening or composting. Homebrewing is changing the way many people consume the beverage, says Annie Johnson, the 2013 American Homebrewers Association’s Homebrewer of the Year.
“I think people are really enjoying drinking in their own neighborhoods,” Johnson says. “Now, you can roll up around the corner or into someone’s garage and they can serve you something they made in their own house.”
Johnson, who started brewing with friends as a way to pass the time while watching baseball games, has tasted beers from around the globe. She brews some of the best of them too. This past year, Johnson’s light American lager “Mow the Damn Lawn” took the gold medal in its category and bested all other gold-medal winners to win Best in Show. She is the first African American to be named Homebrewer of the Year, and the first female recipient since 1983.
Ever so humble, Johnson says brewing is a craft anyone can find success with in time. The Sacramento resident takes us inside her homebrewing lab for a closer look at the tools she uses to capture the hearts (and taste buds) of those looking for a new beer. 

ProMash ($24.95)

(Courtesy of Annie Johnson)
Johnson uses this software for every step of the brewing process. It allows her to play with the basics—create an inventory of her home ingredients like grains and hops, put together recipes or scale them to larger or smaller batches. She can also meddle in the more advanced, by logging the chemical makeup of her tap water, saving profiles for her mash (the substance that results from converting starches in malted barley into fermentable sugars) and calculating how efficienctly she removes sugars from the grain during the mashing process. Software users can also share recipes or files outlining their inventories with other homebrewers, which comes in handy when someone nearby is mid-brew and realizes he or she is out of an ingredient. Johnson is always happy to lend out some grains or hops. The tool is best for brewers who have a few batches under their belts, says Johnson. While similar products exist, this one is her preference—particularly when she’s trying to get a beer “just right” and can use ProMash to review her last few attempts at the recipe. “It [documents] that trial and error,” she says. “It’s a huge resource.”
ProMash also offers a free trial version of the software, which allows brewers to save three recipes at a time.
Buy it here.

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