Saturday, August 11, 2012

A cure for what ales you

(Before you say it, relax: it's a pun, not a typo.)

This is Bubbles:

He'd been living under my back deck for about a year, woefully unemployed until just yesterday when he began a two-week gig. He's now babysitting over a million yeast cells eating and pooping away in five gallons of pumpkin ale in the corner of my kitchen:

Last night, my friends Kate, Carmen, Amanda, Carina, and Aaron -- all novice brewers like me -- found themselves up to their elbows in beermaking tasks. (Is it my teaching background, or a latent proclivity for management, I wonder.) We all had our assignments. Amanda led the instruction following, timing, and drink opening:

Kate was the measurement maven (and, later, the biscuit making queen):
Carmen took the lead on making the spent grain veggie burgers:
Oh, wait, the burgers came after the beer making proper. Hang on. Let's see, where was I?

Ah, yes. There was pumpkin roasting and malt pouring. Then an hour of boiling. Drinking and nibbling and checking the timer. Some spicing and straining:

As we slid our tureen of wort off of the hot burners, things got a little more technical and I started harassing... I mean reminding... everyone to keep things sterile: anything that would be touching  our cooling beer, including fingers and thermometers, must get dunked in the sanitizing solution first. We had to cool the beer FAST so no weird other things would land in the optimal growing medium and start reproducing. Carina showed up just in time to help with her instant-read thermometer:

We had some technical difficulties at this point, as after things dropped to about 85 degrees -- still 5 degrees too hot for yeast to survive, according to the instructions -- the temperature started to rise again. We had to take emergency measures to cool down the wort quickly! Carina rummaged through my freezer while channeling Macguyver's hipster doppelganger to save the day:

Don't worry, I sterilized the frozen waterbottle and bag of frozen edamame with sanitizing solution first. Hmm, that does look kind of unappealing, doesn't it? Well, it worked.

Then there was the ongoing debate about whether the pre-inflated yeast packet would work. After a poll among the six of us, we decided we'd try it. (Also, there was no alternative.) So, it was on to scampering outside to battle mosquitoes and get 5 gallons of wort from the giant brewpot into the (sterilized) carboy using a little (sterilized) funnel.

The directions insisted that we vigorously stir the beer to aerate it. Well, I'm pretty sure we aerated our pumpkin ale enough merely with the vigorous pouring process. I mean, look at that foam:
Finally, after adding the yeast, sealing the top with a (sterilized) airlock, and installing Bubbles back inside my apartment, it was at last time to devour a feast of spent grain veggie burgers with homemade lemon caper aioli on baked-from-scratch biscuits, massaged kale and peach salad, loads of fresh fruit, and more wine and beer. (Lord, I love spent grain burgers.) Not a bad way to spend a Friday night. Now if only I can cajole them back in two weeks to bottle our pumpkin ale....


  1. Awesome! Been awhile since I've done any brewing, but it's nice to have many gallons of beer at hand.

    Read Charlie Papazian's book if you haven't. Best piece of advice about brewing contained in it: "Relax, don't worry, have a home brew." ;^)


  2. I'm expecting spent grain burgers on our next visit. And homemade beer, of course... (this is Schmeg, by the way)

  3. Thanks for the encouragement, Sean. The homebrewers' helpline had similar advice when I called to ask them if I should worry that my brew had stopped bubbling yesterday....

    And Schmeg, when you come visit we can make a batch of beer and spent grain burgers together. I just made another round of burgers today with my pal Yochi and they're even better with panko breadcrumbs. See? I'm just perfecting my "recipe" before your arrival. I know you like recipes....


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