It's been about a year now. I'm trying to control it, but with little success. What "it" is is an obsession with brewing a decent hefeweizen. I'm determined to get it right. But I keep getting it wrong.
Over the past year or so I’ve lost five friends. About one every two or three months and it sucks. I don’t want to bring you down, but every so often I think about those friends and what they meant to me.
I am a novice home brewer. There I said it. I am attempting to get better. Really that’s the crux. I have brewed off an on for about a decade but can’t seem to crawl out of the beginning stages of my brewing career. I’ve brewed some decent beers – beginners luck turned my first ever brew, a hopped up Pale ale, into my all-time favorite beer. But I’ve also brewed some duds and encountered some really strange outcomes – including an oddly sour hefeweizen – I don’t want to talk about (but I will, of course).
Like many home brewers, I came to the hobby via the craft beer explosion in this country. The experience of tasting really good beers created a curiosity in me about all things beer-related. It wasn’t too long before I was at a home brew supply shop getting my supplies and requisite copy of The Joy of Homebrewing, along with a handful of pointers from the friendly owner.
Despite all the years I’ve been doing it I’m no expert. In fact, I’ve got a lot to learn. Sure I’ve been brewing for 10 years. But, I’ve got no flow. I brew a handful of times a year and each time I seem to need to re-learn a portion of what I’ve forgotten since I last brewed. Thrown into the mix are a day job, a night job and two small children to wrangle – a one year old and four year old. I realize that kids aren’t necessarily an impediment to brewing but in my case they are a distraction (albeit a happy one) from my pursuit of the perfect brew. My goal of brewing on a regular basis has moved off the front burner.
But no more! As we all know, the best way to learn is by doing. Therefore, with the launch of this blog I am setting out to go from novice to intermediate to, someday, expert. Fingers crossed. Here, I’ll share my successes and inevitable – let’s not call them failures – missteps. I will provide details on what a novice brewer can do to get better, whether it’s tweaking a recipe by one ingredient per batch; utilizing a particularly useful tool; or reviewing some of the helpful brewing literature out there. I may even attempt to grow hops in my big back yard. Come along with me as I struggle, stumble and, hopefully, learn how to become a better home brewer....
I’m sure everyone that is old to enough to ride a bicycle has been subjected to the overused cliche that patience is a virtue dozens, if not hundreds of times. During the last 3 months of 2011 I got a chance to test this time honored theory out. My hiatus from this blog during the holiday season was indeed intentional, as I did not want to burden you with the tedious details about the roadblocks we were dealing with trying to get this brewery going. Now that we have entered the new year, allow me to make amends and give you the scoop.
I know I mentioned our search for a new location the last time around and the ironic part is that we decided to give it one more try at the original spot. Our two major issues were the existing septic system shared by the business complex and the inability to sell pints out of that building due to zoning restrictions. Thanks to the wonderful people at the county office, our wastewater consultant and a coffee shop in downtown Mariposa going out of business, those problems have been solved! We now have an approved permit for our own leach field and a perfect space to convert into taproom.
The other major hurdle we had was really a result of how much steam this craft brewing industry has gotten. Due to the high demand for the construction of professional brewing equipment, our manufacturer of choice had not only gotten a ton of orders from that last time we spoke, but their prices also went up! After about a month of going back and forth on delivery date and pricing, the time finally came for THE decision. Everyone knew that once the system was ordered and a deposit was put down, there was no turning back. Two days before Christmas, I received the call that the sales agreement was signed and that this thing was really going to happen. Merry Xmas to me!
So what does this all mean? Since I began chronicling this journey nearly 2 years ago, I made it clear that my ultimate end game was to open a small brewery. Thanks to my education (Thank you UC Davis), my public display of creative expression (Thank you BYO Magazine), an email from one of my soon to be partners (Thank you Terry), my drive and last but certainly not least, patience.... it is now finally a reality. In a months time I’ll be packing my bags and heading into unfamiliar territory both literally and figuratively. It’s scary, it’s exciting and I couldn’t be happier that I’m going to doing what I hope is truly my labor of love for many years to come.
For those of you that have followed this blog, I would like to say to that it has been a pleasure sharing this time in my life with you. Since there is already a very good blog being written about the trials and tribulations of a budding new brewery for BYO, I shall close the curtain on this one. That being said, you can bet you haven’t heard the last of me!
If you happen to take a trip out to Yosemite National Park later this year, feel free to stop by Prospectors Brewing Co. in Mariposa and have a beer or two. You can say you know the Brewmaster. We're hoping to be open by mid/late summer.
James Spencer and I are happy to announce the next in our series of Brew Your Own/Basic Brewing Radio collaborative experiments. We have two experiments this time, and you can participate in both (or either) by simply brewing a single batch of beer.
Experiment 1 -- How does trub in the fermenter affect your beer?
For homebrewers who use immersion chillers, after boiling and chilling wort, they must transfer it to their fermenter. (If a plate chiller or counterflow chiller is used, chilling and transfer happen simultaneously.) Some homebrewers try to minimize the amount of trub (protein, hop material and other "gunk" at the bottom of the kettle) that gets transferred and just rack clear wort. Others, thinking that the yeast may reap a nutritional benefit from some trub carryover, rack some trub to their fermenter along with the wort.
In our collaborative experiment, we want to test if beer made from clear wort vs. wort with some trub in the fermenter can be distinguished. And, if they can, we want to find out what the differences are.
For any homebrewer who wants to participate, the experiment is simple -- all you need to do is brew one batch of beer and ferment equal amounts of wort in two identical fermenters. After boiling and cooling, whirlpool the wort and let the trub settle. Transfer half of the wort to your first fermenter, taking care not to pick up any trub. Transfer the rest of the wort to the second fermenter, carrying over a substantial amount of trub. (It's up to you to decide how much, just write down an estimate when you do. For example, "half the trub" or "2 quarts.') If you have a plate chiller or counter-flow chiller, you will need to let the wort in one of the fermenters settle, then rack the clear wort into another fermenter....