Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
It had been several weeks since my husband had taken the one day Introduction to Brewing class at the local home brewing supply store and come home with a glazed look on his face and a starter kit to make his first batch of home brewed beer. Now he was moving from malt extract to all grain brewing and had acquired a mill and a few other bits of paraphernalia to make it possible. As long as it all fits under the sink, I said.
But really, I was glad to see that Mark had found a passion. After all, it's good for a man to have a hobby, right? And this one made a lot less noise than the wood shop idea, and was much less risky and stressful than the commodity-trading phase. At least he wasn't racing motorcycles or raising strange animals. Still, I wondered how long it would last.
After the equipment started taking over the kitchen cupboards and then the kitchen itself, we bought a plastic shed for the back deck for him to store the accumulating burners, pots, kegs, CO2 tanks, grains, etc. And when the beer glasses collected from the various breweries and pubs and beer festivals began to shove the other drinking glasses and dishes into unapproachable corners of the cupboards, I agreed that he could use a shelf in the laundry cupboard for the overflow. Soon there were two shelves of glasses, a bin of hop pellets that looked like rabbit food, along with various other devices and several books on home brewing. Laundry and cleaning supplies were stacked on top of the dryer and our storage space was reduced to a few square feet. Then one day the freezer arrived on the back of a friend's truck and with some pushing and shoving was wedged in next to the washing machine. A few adjustments and attachments later, and it was goodbye storage, hello kegerator.
He kept meticulous notes on every aspect of his brewing process. And while his dirty clothes may have been sprawled across the bedroom floor and his bathroom took on the appearance of a war zone, the beer area was always spotless and orderly. He became manic about sanitation and cleanliness, and though my kitchen knives would disappear into fermenting kegs to become weights for dry hop bags, or my pots and measuring cups would mysteriously relocate themselves to the beer shed, I was told that I must never, ever borrow a beer utensil for anything else. Some mornings he trots out to visit his fermenter the minute he wakes up, then comes back with a glass full of some cloudy yellow liquid as I'm trying to wake up, sitting down to a cup of coffee. ‘Taste this', he says. ‘Tell me if it's any good.' He is a man possessed.
Little by little, the world of beer began to infiltrate into our lives. Weekend outings gave way to brewing Sundays. Our vacations and road trips were punctuated by tours of micro-breweries, (which I found I could use as leverage to my advantage, countering with museum and gallery visits.) My usual healthy eating habits became compromised with countless brewpub menus while participating in numerous taste evaluations of beer samplers. I learned about hops and how they are used as a bittering agent, used to balance out the sweetness of the beer to give it a fuller and more complex flavor. Gee, I found myself thinking, it sounds just like a relationship.
He explains to me about the yeast. How it changed the course of history by turning nomadic wanderers into agrarian people because they needed to cultivate grain to make enough beer to keep them satisfied. One night I woke up to a strange rhythmic bubbling sound coming from the bedroom closet. When I opened the door I saw that his shoes had been shoved to one side to make room for the glass carboys wrapped in electric blankets like precious bundles. I pulled one of the blankets aside and stared at the foamy mixture inside. All of that yeast in there multiplying away in a feeding frenzy. Living organisms that through some strange intelligence knew just how much they needed to reproduce to consume the sugar provided by the malted grain. I knelt down to get a closer look at them. "What have you done to my husband?" I asked. And that's when I knew. This wasn't just a hobby anymore. This was his calling.
He joined a homebrew group where he and other brewers would gather together like mad scientists and taste each other's concoctions and talk endlessly about gravity and hop ratios and IBU's and clone recipes along with the latest must-have brewing gizmos. He was a man communing with his tribe. He would come home from beer festivals with a wild satisfied grin on his face, like a kid coming home from Disneyland. He would look like a walking advertisement for micro-breweries, laden with tee shirts and key chain bottle openers, bumper stickers, hats, glasses. Here was a man who wouldn't buy himself a pair of socks, who balked at the price of food and haircuts, and yet when it came to beer or beer related doodads, the money flowed from his wallet. There was no holding back. After the arrival of the beer sculpture, the ominous skeletal multi-tiered monstrosity that appeared one day after he had befriended a welder, I knew that our lives had turned a corner. It was time to move. We needed a garage.
One night I asked him the question a wife should never ask her homebrewer husband. "If you had to choose between beer making and me, what would it be?" I could see the wires crossing in his head, the almost visible sparks as he struggled to find the right answer. Finally, "What the hell kind of question is that?" He said, and went out to the garage to check his fermenter. I'm okay with it. Really I am. Because in my heart of hearts I know that when your true purpose and passion calls to you and makes you feel happy and whole, what choice do you have, really?
Read Susan's follow up post "life with a homebrewer (part II)" here!
Monday, March 23, 2009
located at the entrance to Monterey. Morgan Christopher is the owner and beer aficionado, who opened for business two years ago introducing to the public the vast array of remarkable beers from all over the world.
As I walk in I am immediately drawn to a bar that boasts at least forty specialty beers in bottles and another ten or twelve on tap. We’re not talking your usual domestic craft fair although there is some of that also, including Belgian style ales from Maine and California , but more appealing to me is the large selection of classics from around the world. Schlenkerla rauchbier from Germany, Koningshoeven Quadruple from Netherlands, Delirium Tremens, Belgium. And on tap, Chimay Tripel and Old Rasputin Imperial Stout and Erdinger Dunkelweizen to name a few. Needless to say, I was in heaven.
I located my friend and we ordered immediately.
A Karmliet Tripel
www.bestbelgianspecialbeers.be/main_eng.html for me, and a La Chouffe Ipa www.achouffe.be/en/nos-bieres/nos-produits/for Karl. Both were delicious. We spoke briefly with Morgan about his operation and then opened a bottle of homebrew that I brought down for the occasion. It was a Chimay Tripel clone that had been aging in my kegerator for several months. He seemed suspicious at first but after a couple sips agreed that it was indeed good. Morgan introduced his chef Kevin Fisher who is also a homebrewer. Kevin has been at The Ol’Factory for seven months where he has refined and considerably improved the menu. His excitement about beer and food was contagious and we talked about the possibility of holding a homebrew and food pairing event in the future. I will follow up on that idea with the other Zymurgeek home brewers. We ordered a couple more beers and enjoyed the open space ambiance of the place with its comfortable couches, big chairs and coffee tables that give the place a feeling like you're in your own living room. Did I mention that they have a full bar for coffee and tea?
The day was drawing to an end and I decided that a perfect beer for the road would be one that I was sure Karl had never had. We were brought a bottle of Girardin gueuze and a couple of glasses to share. After the first smell and sip we both agreed that this beer definitely had a distinct barnyard flavor and aroma and I was relieved when Karl proclaimed that he enjoyed the beer with all of its unique character.
The time came too soon for me to drive back up the coast.
The Monterey Bay area is one of the most beautiful and picturesque places on the planet and only one thing could improve on this image, an establishment that has a huge selection of specialty beers on tap and what seems like an endless array of bottled beer from around the world. Oh wait, it has such a place by the name The Ol’Factory Cafe located in Sand City, within minutes of Monterey.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Saturday, March 14, 2009
What do you think? Leave a comment.
Monday, March 9, 2009
A.) The mighty spray bottle. A very helpful and simple tool to have at your disposal is a common household spray bottle filled with distilled or filtered water.Keep it filled and nearby when the wort is coming to it’s initial boil. As the foam rises a couple inches, spray a heavy mist of water on the top which will effectively knock the foam back down into solution. You will have to spray periodically at the onset of the boil. Using this technique, you may be able to eliminate the
awkward need to
adjust your temperature down as a way of preventing boil overs, of course, it depends on your heat source and/or how vigorous you want the boil. When the boil is stable and underway, your done with the sprayer until your next brew.
B.) Food grade disposable bags for yeast salvage and easy clean-up. I re-use my yeast at least half a dozen times and sometimes more which in itself is a easy brewing trick but what I want to share here is the idea of using disposable food grade bags as a liner and yeast harvester in your fermenter. One of the most important things to consider when salvaging yeast is reducing the amount of exposure to contaminating bacteria and wild yeasts during the process of transfer and containment. This means handling the yeast as little as possible. I ferment in an open container of sorts. My fermenter is a large plastic container with an open top like a bucket. It is actually a 13gal. Liquid malt extract drum that I got from my local home brew store http://www.breworganic.com/ . I cut the top off to easily transfer wort for fermentation. The trick here is that I line the inside of the fermenter with a food grade disposable bag. http://www.papermart.com/ After inserting the bag, I tape the top edge in a couple of places to the top of the drum to hold it in place so that when I transfer the chilled wort from the boil pot, the weight of the wort doesn’t drag the bag in with it. After fermentation is complete, I rack the beer into my secondary (in this case a corny keg) and prepare to salvage the yeast. The process is as follows:
- lift bag containing yeast out of fermenter
- lower bottom of bag into a bucket of water/sanitizer solution for a couple of minutes
- lift bag out of solution and let solution drip off for several seconds
- hold sanitized bag full of yeast over a previously sanitized jar (quart sized)
- perforate bottom of bag with sanitized knife and let yeast drain into the jar
- cover jar of yeast with foil and place in fridge until needed
- dispose of bag and excess yeast You now have a large yeast starter for your next batch of beer and no need to clean your fermenter. I have used this technique many times and teach the process in my home brewing school in addition to the traditional ways of yeast salvaging.
C.) Wort aeration made easy. Finally, an effective way to aerate your wort without having to ‘rock’ carboys or hook up air pumps is to transfer the wort between sanitized buckets several times. This means pouring the wort from a height of several feet into another bucket. Here’s what you do.
- After the wort is cooled to pitching temperatures, drain or pour into one or two 5 gallon buckets depending on the batch size.
- Then pour the wort back into the boil pot, or another sanitized bucket.
- Then repeat this step two or three times.
- Finally pour into you fermenter. Your done.
I hope you’ve taken away from this post some useful information. There are a lot more ideas like this out there. If you’re willing the share, leave a comment below to help others with their brewing endeavors. And remember to sign up for email notice for new posts. Cheers!
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
For more information on Palomas Mensajeras, contact:
Sr. Miguel Perez Resendiz
Calle Morelos #9 Opengulo
Mpio de Erongaricuaro, Mich. Mexico
Tel. 01(443) 393-2938