It began as a quest to learn how to brew real beer and when I say real beer I meant real high ABV beer. The Belgium dark sweet and intensely alcoholic variety was a new obsession. I would like to lie and say the artistic nature of creating your own beer is what drew me to brewing beer and in part that is true but my original motivating factor was if you brew it yourself and learn how it is really done you can make it as strong as you can take it.
My first foray into brewing was #9 clone with an odd little bottle of apricot flavoring. The batch was not such a success. The brewing portion was fine having been schooled to the pitfalls of under sanitation and over boiling on the kitchen stove by my friend and brewing mentor Greg. No what screwed the Chihuahua on that batch was bottle conditioning and carbonation.
The whole batch wasn’t lost but something about extract brewing didn’t taste right to me. I always felt like the beer had a sort of chalky flavor to it for lack of a better term to describe the flavor brewing pure extract gives off. I drank as many as I could stomach and dumped probably half.
That set me on the path of two goals. Number one brew all grain and number two get a kegging system because not only does beer taste better on draught it carbonates in less than half the time it takes in the bottle! Praise the beer god I was all in after I learned that. My next batch going in succession on how to move up per my mentor was to brew a mini mash. Mini mash is the first step to all grain paradise.
I got a kegging system and a big enough SS pot to do a partial boil in. Got all my stuff from Maltose again and followed the directions to the tee. Once fermented and racked I was ready to get onto the business of carbonating. I found it easy really, a bit labor intensive shaking the 5 gallon keg but the beer took about 10 days to ferment and once done and racked I carbonated it in about 48 hours.
Anyways I did the mini mash which happened to be a Bass Ale clone and it came out pretty close to Bass which was and always has been one of my favorite Pale ales. Which at the time seemed funny to call it a pale ale when it is as brown as a brown ale. Later I would come to understand color was only one factor in beer style.
The next mini mash was a Chimay red clone and that one really came out good because of the Belgium rock candy that was in the kit. I think I might have added extra in a bid to hike up the gravity and the final alcohol content. Like I said I like flavor of beers but my goal was to get my biggest bang for the buck.
Over the years I have many triumphs in the pale ale category a few decent Heffe’s and Heffe’s with local honey which boosted the alcohol content and lent a dry flavor to the beer that was odd for a wheat brew but not all that bad. My point in this is that since the inception of my brewing career or addiction my end game was always the goal, good high alcohol beer which as I have grown older and reflected back has taught me something.
I think of this fact more so in this past year or two than ever. I had been on a nearly two-year hiatus from brewing and drinking beer for the most part. Maybe it was longer because when I came back to it the entire craft brew industry had exploded and taken on a whole new life. Once I started getting back into the craft beers and seeking out new information I had come to find out that post 2015 IPA was king, lager had been demoted and a rash of previously seldom heard of type beers of the sour variety had become extremely popular.
Anyway my point here was this, I started brewing to make potent beers and I always rushed the process and sped to the finish line to get drinking as fast as I could. What I understand now is the value and the importance of taking your time working on the process. This applies to almost everything in life but I think is particularly poignant in brewing where the process for each type of beer has to be meticulously followed to produce the desired effect.
As a brewer you are part mad scientist, part artist and part beer zen master or ninja! The point here again is that the process and attention to the detail before during and after the process are essential to creating something exciting, vibrant and delicious. When I was young I longed to create a huge beer or the next novelty infusion and now I am ultimately satisfied with creating the best beer I am capable of creating with the best ingredients I can get my hands on.
Someday when I have perfected my craft I hope to share the physical manifestation of it with the world but for now I am content with sharing the metaphysical ramblings spewing from my brain as I sip a lil bit of heaven IPA from Two Roads! Amen!