It’s Time to Get Crafty for the Winter Pandemic Months

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In North America and Europe we are bound to have to spend the winter mostly in our own domiciles due to political mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic alongside the scourge of ignoramuses who don’t wear masks. Being stuck in one environment all the time will inevitably lead to boredom, so we must find ways to keep ourselves occupied. Consider crafting.

Pickup a hobby, any hobby, and get crafty with it to make these long winter months fly.

That’s another side of crafting that I personally find, perhaps paradoxically, valuable: how separate it is from my actual work, and how it makes me feel productive without that productivity being tied to the pursuit of money. Of course, plenty of people make their living in part or wholly by selling what they make, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with picking up a craft with the hope that you might be able to sell your finished products. Especially at the beginning stages, though, I’d advise against focusing on that as your end goal, and instead concentrate on turning off your anxious brain, deciding which skills you’d like to get the hang of, or thinking about who you might like to give the first (or, let’s be real, third) fruit of your labors to. No shame whatsoever if that recipient is yourself.

So how do you choose which craft is right for you? There’s no such thing as a “crafty person” versus a non-crafty one, IMO, but your mileage may vary in terms of how much time, attention, and money you’re willing or able to invest. This goes triple during, say, a pandemic, when it should be considered a rousing victory simply to get through the day.

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Craft Beer is Advancing Science

We all know that craft beers are delicious thanks to all their fun flavours and now we also know that by drinking craft beer we are helping the world of science. The search for hop plants, which are integral to craft beer, has pushed science to go further into examining the plant and it’s neighbours – that means the world of botany is expanding. The drive for more varieties of hops has even led to using old ideas in new ways around what medicinal practices hops can be used for!

Flavor is driving the hunt. But, as it turns out, Matthews himself is not only, or even mostly, interested in flavor. The scientific byways, and possible medical uses, are more intriguing to him: the hipster I.P.A. quaffers are, in effect, advancing the frontiers of pure science, enabling the sequencing of the hop genome, and funding ethnobotanical excursions. “I was just in Tbilisi, at the Georgian botanical garden,” Matthews said. “People in Georgia are still into agroforestry—they pick wild strawberries and things in the forest. It turns out rural Georgians have for a long time used wild hops to cure their breads. Hops makes a powerful broad-spectrum antibiotic. It stops bacteria from souring the bread.”

The Georgians have also used hops as a folk medicine for reproductive health, to treat uterine pain, for example. This makes sense to Matthews since hops contain the strongest known plant-derived estrogen. “We are seeking to engineer it,” he said. “We think it can be used for hormone-replacement therapy—for example, in postmenopausal women.”

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Beer Brings Bonus to Businesses

Something exciting is happening in Cleveland and it’s that beer is bringing a bountiful amount of success to a failing neighbourhood. Great Lakes Brewing Company (not to be confused with GLB in Toronto) is one of many brewers that are drawing people and jobs back into the core of Cleveland. What’s happening there is not unique to Cleveland and similar success can be found all over North America.

Call it a “brewery incubation system,” says Benner, one that provides space, equipment and start-up assistance for hobbyists itching to hit the beer big leagues. “We’re bridging the gap between the home and pro brewer.”

Platform’s brewhouse will also house an onsite taproom, meaning patrons will be able to sample a seasonal lineup of beers in the very space in which they’re brewed. “It’s a manufacturing place where you can have a beer,” says Benner. “People are going to feel a connection to their product.”

The business model is not all that unusual, he believes. Benner estimates that 95 percent of professional brewers started out making beer in their home kitchens. He brewed up his first batch of homebrew (summer wheat) after being introduced to the hobby by a friend. Benner was instantly hooked, and he thinks that mentality will help Platform carve out its own niche in Ohio City’s — and Cleveland’s — craft brew scene.

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