Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How we got our start

I brewed beer about 15 years ago, back when it was a dark art practiced by a few grumpy old folks in back rooms and basements.  I wasnt very good at it, so it kind of fell by the wayside.  Fast forward to a few months ago, when one of us had the genius idea to give it a shot.  We love beer and we love cooking, so why not?  There's nothing terribly difficult about brewing your own beer.  If there was, we'd be doing something else and spending a silly amount of money for the good stuff.  Which we still do for the moment, but only because there's not much drinkable beer ready yet.  Even a small beer (5% or so) takes about a month and a half to be drinkable.

We started out with the cheapest, most basic kit available from our local homebrew shop and brewed a starter can of Coopers "Lager" that was included with it.

The quotes are necessary because true lagering entails keeping the beer at about 50 degrees through most of the process and we're just not set up for that yet.  Also, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has a real problem with Lager.  Seriously - check your beer label next time you have a Sam Adams.  I bet you see something that says "ALE in Texas" on a Boston Lager.  Sorry, beer nerd moment.

The canned kits that some homebrew places carry are trash, and may be the biggest reason that some people brew a batch of beer once and never again.  The ingredients are probably old as hell, which is a big factor in the taste and color of a brew.  They're pre-hopped in some cases, so you dont get the fun and variety of adding your own (Pay attention to the next Sam Adams commercial you see.)  There are no steeping grains so you're missing out on another level of flavor.   The dry yeast that was in ours was expired, but they still did what yeast do - wake up, eat sugar and have yeast sex so that a 5 gallon bucket of fermenting syrup turns into beer.

We made a ton of rookie mistakes with that beer, spent hours hovering over a plastic bucket watching a $2 airlock make bubbles and said all kinds of sweet things to it in the first 3 weeks of life.  Basically, we were doing things that probably would have gotten us committed to an asylum if anyone but a homebrewer had seen them.  We sent that beer straight from its warm cozy home (in our bottling bucket) into 48 brown glass bottles, along with a little sugar droplet to make the fizzy bubbles, then packed it away in a dark box and waited some more.  A week later, we cracked one (two weeks too early, but patience is not our strong point) and pretty much immediately caught the homebrew bug.  There were flavors there that definitely should NOT have been there, but it was ours.  We made it. 

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