Last weekend, my friend (and neighbor) Patrick came over on Sunday afternoon and we brewed our tenth and eleventh batches of beer, respectively.
Well, for the sake of accuracy let me admit that mostly what we did was drink beer while giving Pepe directions on when to stir, which hops to add to a particular kettle at a given time, and how to adjust the burners. I think the only real contribution we made was to mix the malt extract in at the right times and heft the kettles around when circumstance required it.
Pepe is an awesome little guy, but his work as a brewing assistant far exceeded even my high expectations. Not only did he keep up with the wort boiling while we did two batches side by side, he also climbed onto the counter and helped me ladle the cooled wort through a strainer, completely unbidden — pretty much enduring the entire 2.5 hour cycle, except for a few minutes he spent reading books with Cathy during the “boring parts.” Good job, Pepe! I may never brew beer without a 5-year-old apprentice again.
Since last year, these are the beers we’ve brewed:
Batch 0: the beer we’d rather forget.
Batch 1: A ginger-infused pale ale. Tasty!
Batch 2: An IPA; the beer we DID forget.
Batch 3: More ginger-infused pale ale. Unfortunately, this ripened up JUST in time to miss the last of summer =(
Batch 4: Oatmeal Stout. Unfortunately, bad timing and bad luck plagued the production of this beer. First of all, we bought the ingredients for this beer just before we both became incredibly busy — so the ingredients aged (not gracefully) for 6 weeks. Then, after brewing, the Wyeast starter proved to be DOA — so after a week of no fermentation, we finally pitched a second dose of yeast. The resulting stout tasted very mediocre but improved dramatically with age; it’s almost tasty now.
Batch 5: A double pale ale with cranberries and rosemary, code named “Ingratitude Ale.” Patrick despises this beer, but I think it’s rather tasty. It is certainly very cranberry-y.
Batch 6: Our first red ale. Not great, probably because I fried the bottle conditioning yeast and their billions of singed microscopic corpses don’t taste all that good.
Batch 7: A dry-hopped IPA, and probably the best beer we’ve made so far; it has a good body, a nicely balanced bouquet of hops, and a spicy finish. Tasty stuff.
Batch 8: A double red ale, dry hopped and infused with cardamom, code named “Cranky Swede.” This one is still aging towards drinkability, but the tester bottles I’ve opened so far have been quite promising.
Batch 9 (pictured above): A dry coffee stout.
Batch 10 (pictured above): A dry-hopped double IPA with honey and rosemary, code named “Spring Fever.”
I’ve discovered that I really enjoy the craftwork of brewing. We’ve had a handful of outright failures and some marginal successes, but there is something about enjoying the product of your own labor — like baking — that no commercial brew can replace. Onward and upward!