Home brewing is a hedonist’s dream. Whatever your taste, your required quantity, your preferred bottle shape, it’s all under your control, o puppetmaster. But homebrewing is a hell for the impatient. You think once fermenting is done that you can drink? No, bottle the beer, add your carbonating sugar, and wait another week. Or two. Ready? No. Now put it in the fridge to condition some more in the bottle. Another week goes by. You have no commercial beer left because you think you’ve been brewing all this stuff of your own so you shouldn’t have to buy more. It’s been a week in the fridge so you open up the bottle, finally, finally. Smiles all around, oohing and ahhing over the color and aroma and creamy head. You take a sip, close your eyes and…hmmm. The flavors are a bit one-dimensional and overpowering. You know from experience that another few weeks or even a month would really blend these flavors and make it a first-class beer. Can you wait that long? Here’s a batch of three varieties, honey-rosemary saison, stout, and English ale, all “ready” to drink. But really not. They need another month or so.
Beer, beer, all around, and not a drop to drink. So this weekend I brewed up some more, determined to make a kick-ass strong Belgian dubbel that I promise I won’t even taste until October. This one has 50% more grain in the mash to make an extra strong and sweet wort, then I added in more brown sugar near the end of the boil to make it EVEN STRONGER! MORE ALCOHOL! I was sure this one would take off in the fermenter and launch into low orbit. The first night I checked in and all was quiet. Good…calm before the mighty typhoon. The next day, flat and motionless, the kind of calm you’d see on a dead lake in a cave, thinking you’d found a flat sheet of obsidian. That night I rubbed my hands and peeked in the cabinet: dull brown liquid, not a single bubble of activity. So I’d drowned my yeast in sugars, fattened them up and put them to sleep before they could get down and party, that was it. A huge batch of failure. Fail beer, wouldn’t that look nice being poured into the sink? The next afternoon I was ready to try something drastic, maybe add more yeast, dump the whole thing, or just leave it to rot. And I found this happening:
Party time! You can hear the steady bubbling of CO2 from all this frenzy of yeast. Keep in mind this is a one-gallon jug and it’s putting out that volume of gas, like the winner at a chili dog-eating contest. I figure this beer will be ready to bottle early next week, then it can be cellared until fall, with one or two bottles held back another year or two. Who am I kidding? If I can hold out until Thanksgiving it’ll be a true abbey miracle!