It was bound to happen: making bread and drinking beer leads to making beer. They aren’t that different, bread and beer. One’s liquid and both are delicious. My wife got me a beer-making kit from Brooklyn Brew Shop. The flavor: smoked wheat. What do you get in a kit? Just about everything you’ll need minus the bottles. Or if you want to drink a gallon of beer in one go, you won’t need bottles but you might need some medical attention.
Child Harbat helped me make the mash, which really meant she touched the things I’d just sterilized, decided not to stir the pot because it was too hot, and handled the long delicate thermometer in a way that had me rubbing my forehead and waiting to hear the splinter of broken glass. My part of making the mash was emptying a bag of mixed grains into a pot and simmering it for an hour. How to describe the smell? Toasted grain and dry grass, earth, wood, sprouting plants. Not quite like bread but grainy in such a evocative and novel way (at least to my nose) that I knew something exciting was happening. After an hour I had a rich mash.
Then came the exciting task of extracting the wort. I know my bollocksing up of all these brewing terms would make a real home-brewer gnash their long stained teeth but bear with me. Basically you pour hot water over the mash to get a pot full of brown juice. Since I am Uncle F#*k-Up (search the blog archive, I dare you) I had a very small strainer which is normally used as a drumstick/hat by Number Two. Which meant I had to do my wort straining in about a hundred small batches. *Note to self: if making beer again, buy a large fine strainer. When all was done I ended with a cloudy and very dark brown liquid that resembled cola poured in a mud puddle.
Great! Boil another hour but don’t forget the magic pellets. Ahh, now I understand the fun alchemy of home brewing. Along with my beer-making supplies came a tiny foil packet with a dozen green dry pellets, like the stuff you feed rabbits and hamsters. These were pure hops! If you’ve had a double IPA you know the smell of hops but the real pure thing is sublime to smell: balsam, alpine flowers, floral notes, tangy grapefruit, fresh cut grass. I dropped these little pellets in throughout the boiling of the wort then cooled and strained the whole thing into my gallon bottle and set it to offgas in a closet, something my wife often does with me.
In Part two we’ll discover what else you can do with all the spent grains from your mash. Waste not want not, said somebody who probably had a huge collection of plastic tubs and twist ties.