Sunday, November 29, 2015

Madam Brewski

A couple of months ago, over a couple of happy hour beers at Glen's, my buddy Josh was telling me about how he and his girlfriend were debating whether or not to host their annual persimmon festival.

"Excuse me? I adore persimmons! How have I not heard of this gathering before??" I spluttered, nearly knocking over my pint of porter. (Probably because I tend to have my head down and focused on teaching during the first few months of each school year, working to get the garden back in order and routines in place. Okay, fine.)

We began to brainstorm things we could make. Persimmon cupcakes... icecream... beer. Yes. Well, as it turned out, the festival never came to pass, but as recently as three weeks ago I remained fixated on the idea of persimmon beer. I happened to mention my idea to my friend Kate, who in turn got very excited, as she has just purchased some basic, used homebrewing equipment. And she had a couple of persimmon trees on her property. And hops -- fresh Cascade hops grown at nearby Wangari Gardens. (Hooray for uber local ingredients!) That settled it: it was time for me to eschew the pre-measured, scripted beer kits and strike out to create a new beer.

Okay, maybe I would see if there was some guide online.... Thankfully, there was. The next step was to gather the ingredients, which involved a series of emails and then trip to one of my favorite local breweries to pick up the remaining supplies: malt, yeast, barley, and a few other odds and ends. I suggested I could hand grind the malted grains at home -- I've had lots of practice grinding wheat into flour with hand-powered mills at school lately -- but the helpful gentleman at the 3 Stars brewshop pulverized a whole pound of grain for me in less than 5 seconds. Oooh. Maybe I need one of these:

Last Sunday afternoon, some of my favorite lady friends gathered to nibble, drink, catch up, and get a 5-gallon batch of persimmon ale started. First, we needed a pound of [persimmon] flesh. Kate got to work:

As the wort began to simmer, we sterilized equipment, nibbled on the persimmon peels, and mashed the pulp. Then it was time to add the malt:

Then we stirred in the persimmon pulp, cinnamon, and freshly grated nutmeg:

And then the hops:

As we were about to kick back and rest on our brewing laurels, the first kink in the plan arose: the wort chiller's end cap wouldn't fit onto my kitchen faucet. Must I revert to my rudimentary wort cooling methods of yesteryear? I wondered. Luckily, Farmer Kate had some irrigation equipment in her truck parked out front:

A bit of fiddling and we were back in business:

I'm going to skip over the splashy pouring of the cooled wort into the glass carboy in my bathtub -- nobody needs to see that -- but suffice to say Madam Brewski has been moved to a nice warm part of my apartment and has been bubbling away in my kitchen ever since:

Kind of looks like she has a bit of Polish heritage, no? Definitely Eastern European.... My people. And my brewing people were all about toasting and grinding the spent grain to make some Mexican wedding cakes to scarf as we finished the last of the beer in my fridge and patted ourselves on the back for a job well done. Check out Jessica presenting her delicious handiwork, mere moments before the vast majority of confection-sugar-dusted mouthfuls were devoured:

One more week til we transfer to the secondary fermenter, then another couple of weeks before bottling. Should have some finished persimmon ale ready right around my birthday. How nice....

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