Monday, January 17, 2011

Beer Beginnings, Issue 1

by Alan

In the late 80's my Parents opened a small microbrewery and pub. I was around 10 years old at the time, and a brewery meant little to me. At around 13 I began working at the restaurant; cleaning it up before school and helping out with the brewing process in the summers. I was there for every part of the brewing process from grinding the grain to bottling the end product; but I wouldn’t say I actually learned how to brew beer. My parents retired and shut down the operation about 5 years ago; I was plenty old enough to drink beer by that time, but I had just barely started to enjoy it.

It was for my 29th Birthday that my wife got us tickets for the first Santa Barbara Beerfest. That event was my big push into really liking beer, although I don’t think I could look at beer for a day or two after that one. Since that point I’ve been trying out almost any big brewery beer, weird beer,  craft beer, or anything I can get my hands on.  The beer budget is probably a little out of control, but I drink much less beer than I used to with the 24 packs of cheap stuff each weekend (not that I don’t enjoy the cheap stuff beer on occasion). 

For my 31st birthday, my Mom and Dad gave me a Mr. Beer Homebrew kit - basically it's a little two-gallon rig to have some fun with. My Dad wasn’t too stoked with the mention of something that looked kinda hokey coming from the 100 barrel system he had just a few years back, but my mom bought it anyway. I made my first brew a couple days after I got it. After two weeks of hanging out in the plastic keg, it gets bottled with some sugar for bottle carbonating, a day or two in the fridge and viola. I wasn’t wild about the flavor of that first bottle, it was kinda fruity not much backbone, and a cider-ish carbonation. Each bottle after in the next couple weeks just got better and better, and all I could think about was brewing more. Then, what to do after those first couple cans of Mr. Beer pre-mixed extracts were done...?

For Christmas, my awesome wife gave me three more cans of the basic Mr. Beer cans of malted hop, but I wanted to step it up a notch. The wife seemed kinda disappointed at the prospect of not just using what she gave me alone, but after much badgering either she just gave up, or I got through with my argument of doing all malt beer with the gift. I bought some quality yeast, hop pellets, and base malt extracts to do some homebrew. Yesterday was finally the day - I had got my box of goodies from northern brewer the day before and planned my kit for the first brew. 

  • 1 Can Mr. Beer Canadian Draft
  • 19oz Northern Brewer Gold Extract
  • good water (don’t be shitty)
  • 12gm Sterling Hop pellets
  • ~6 Gm Safbrew T-58 yeast

Since I'm not doing any grain boiling or hop schedules, the actual brewing took about 5 minutes. I spent the majority of the time sterilizing the equipment before and cleaning after. Although I expect to spend much more time enjoying the end result, its about a month wait.

I have plans for another three brews, two with Mr. Beer extracts as the base. It's a far cry from brewing with my Dad's system, but the smells of the process really take me back. I'm remembering a lot more about the process I used to follow as a kid, and I'm having a ton of fun actually learning what each step means and reaping the benefits.

Have you ever home brewed? If so, do you have any tips or advice for a new-brewer?

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