Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What's going on?

The weekend was spent busily scrubbing bottles while doing laundry. I also answered texts in between cutting and sanding my wood project. I can multitask like that.
I always clean and sterilize more than I'd need for the batch because the chance of a bottle breaking are pretty good.
If you look close, you can see the chipped glass on the bottle neck and the cap in my daughter's hand. I lost 5 bottles this way. That's okay I suppose because I made 46 beers.

I was asked to write an article for a craft beer forum that I regularly visit. I know it's an informal setup, but I've asked how they'd like the article delivered. As an attachment? Do I simply cut and paste it to an e-mail? I've been in too many predicaments where a writer gets dumped because it's in the wrong format, font, or one too many submissions. Yeah, I gave this online magazine two stories thinking they could choose which one they liked better. I got a lovely rejection and politely told not to submit anything to them again. Oh well, that's how the cookie crumbles. So I will give them the article when and how they want it. In the meantime I thought I'd share it with you all. This has some brewing terms in it, but this is for a home brewing audience. This is what happened the second attempt at making beer.

Not the way I planned

A little over two years ago a microbrewery fell into my possession. Three carboys, four buckets, and a green storage container full of tubes, brushes, chemicals, and dohickeys. Like any proto-brewer, I read up on what I could find and even took a class offered at the local home brew store.
I picked up a beer making kit from the store and nervously began my first wort. I'll be the first to admit an old copy of Papazian's 'Joy of Homebrewing' was open on the counter for quick reference. My fears were for naught. The Oktoberfest brew drew praises from my circle of friends, but with the beer quickly disappearing, I needed to make my next batch.
Wanting a brew that I would enjoy, I selected a Scottish Ale as my next brew. Even if you make a tiny mistake, the beer will generally forgive you. Seeing me tear into my brewing supplies and making a mess of the kitchen, my wife and kids put their feet down.
“Dad, the house reeked of beer the last time.”
(I didn't think that was a bad thing, but that's me.)
“The stove took forever to clean,” said the wife with the stern I-dare-you eyes.
Fearing the couch and I were about to get reacquainted, I compromised by promising to clean up my own mess and let the carboy sit in a dark corner of the garage where I could monitor the fermentation. Out of sight, out of smell. Delicate feminine noses need not be offended.
Earlier in the day I heard that a cold front was heading our way, but brushed it aside by assuring myself I could easily move the carboy inside if the temp dropped. If your weatherman is anything like ours, they have been known to make a mistake or two. Mother Nature isn't as forgiving as hops or malt.
Sixteen hours after pitching my yeast, the temps dropped so fast I was left wondering if I wasn't in some cheesy sci-fi movie. I pulled the carboy inside, but the bubbles escaping the airlock were a noticeably slower. Fermentation continued for a few more days, but never picked up to the rate of my previous batch.
Keep in mind this was only my second attempt at making beer. Should I add more yeast? Was it too late to start over?
A little unsure of myself, I kept the temperature above sixty-five and hoped for the best. Racking and bottling went off without a hitch. Pouring a sample into the tube thingy, I lowered the hydrometer. It sank to the bottom of the testing tube along with my hopes and reputation as a beer maker. What did it mean by .990? Was I reading this thing right? 
By December 30th my Scottish ale was ready for tasting.
Priming and carbonation had taken place, perhaps not as much as I wanted it to, but it wasn't flat. In fact it tasted pretty darn good! My friends came out of the woodwork for a sample of my latest batch. No one shows up for brewing day (or bottling day for that matter), but word gets out when I have a beer that needs to be tasted. Since that time I made a rule: If you want a beer, you need to show up for bottle cleaning duty. Perhaps I should make it that for every five bottles cleaned and sterilized, you earn one beer.
The second beer held less carbonation. The third had more. By that time I noticed I didn't have a buzz. Several beers and trips to the bathroom later, I felt completely sober. The Horror! New Years eve was right around the corner and all I had to show for it was non-alcoholic beer? The shame would scar me for the rest of my adult life.
Briefly I considered pouring it all down the drain, destroying the evidence, but my friends were eagerly awaiting for me to bring my latest creation to the party. Reluctantly I brought the case of Scottish humiliation to my friends house.
No one noticed.
“Hey, this tastes great!” one person said as they chased it down with a shot of Jack Daniels. Indeed, my beer went well with whatever else they were drinking. They were all getting toasted as the ball dropped, but not from my beer. All the wives were giving me the evil glare of retribution. I had to break my secret to them. Pulling one aside, I told her what I'd inadvertently done. She even drank the last of the beers to be sure I was telling the truth.
“Your husbands are getting drunk, but not as much as they think they are,” I said.
The wife I'd confessed to went to her compatriots and called off the jihad on me.

But this I swear to all beer drinkers reading this, I will never, ever, make that mistake again.

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