Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Inaugural Brew

After I bottled my beer, I set the bottles on the bookshelf to shield them from the harsh ambient light. I had two weeks to stare at the forty-three bottles of beer on my bookshelf and contemplate their contents. There's a certain element of awe involved. Soon it will be ready to unleash upon the world. Will it be good? Will it be bad? Who knows? Such is the mystery of life. It could be doing anything in those bottles and I'm powerless to stop it. Like an expectant parent, I worried about the future of my beer and dreamed about its infinite potential.

The best possible outcome would be if the beer turned out great. I could enjoy the fruits of my labor (or rather, hops of my labor) and share my bounty with all. The second best outcome would be if the beer was awful and undrinkable. The reason this scenario takes second place is that then I could bear my defeat in private. Sure I told people about my brewing project and shared my progress in cyberspace, but the beer would go down the drain and I could chalk it up to experience.

The worst case scenario in my mind--aside from the bottles exploding on my bookshelf--is that the beer is drinkable but off. There is an entire chapter in the beer brewing book I have about off-flavors called "Is My Beer Ruined?" It talks about causes for strange tastes in beer and possible remedies. Then when Heather and I took our yeast class in Brooklyn, our instructor emphasized how temperamental beer is as it's fermenting. I got nervous like an expectant mother. To calm myself down, I just kept telling myself, "As long as my beer has ten fingers and ten toes, I'll be happy."

But no one wants to make excuses for their beer. I didn't want to apologize as I handed out bottles. "Look, this won't be enjoyable but try to get through it." Also, I don't like being lied to. I would be forcing people to either bad mouth my creation or lie to me and say they liked it. I think if my beer were drinkable but not very good, I would be forced to drink it all myself.

I brought a six-pack to Pennsylvania for a weekend to unveil it. Heather and I snuck a taste with her mother just to make sure that it was indeed beer and not a stale mess of wort. I pulled the bottle from the fridge and slowly eased off the cap. As soon as I heard the pssst noise, my heart leapt. "That's what real beers do!" I thought. I poured the bottle into a glass, being very careful not to disturb the layer of yeast at the bottom. I took a taste and got very excited. Not only was it beer, it was decent beer. Nice and hoppy, just the way daddy likes.

I took it over to my parents' house and set up a little taste test. I let everyone try a little of my IPA and a little Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. My mom actually said she preferred my beer to the Dogfish Head. Score one for me: My mom thinks I'm cool. Not only is it exciting to have accomplished something like this, it's exciting to have dozens of bottles of drinkable beer. Heather thought it would be a good idea to have a beer party as a way to share this beer with the world. I thought it was a great idea. She also thought that it would be a good idea to have it coincide with her birthday party. The small gathering seemed to enjoy the brew. It wasn't all about Heather's cake.

As my first beer brewing experience draws to a close, I want to say that I think it has been a rewarding experience. I like the investment of labor and patience involved. I like the seemingly magical process of sugar turning into alcohol and carbon dioxide. And I like the social aspect of beer creation--being able to share the benefits of my crazy science experiment. I already have my next exciting new batch in the bucket and I'm very optimistic. I look forward to continuing this hobby, fine-tuning it and sharing it with you on the blog.


Anonymous said...

Awesome. Bill and I hope to brew our own someday


Anne Keefe said...

I love how you compare your batch of brew to a new born child! You would be the paranoid mother, Will. Congrats on a fine brew!

Sarah said...

I can't believe you made your own beer, way to go! (and with 10 fingers and toes!) I have never tried but visited a friend who did (he got to write the guest post) and I drank the beer :-)

Marika said...

That's what real beers do! My sentiments exactly. Looking forward to hearing about the next brews. Cheers!

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