It’s been three years since I’ve brewed beer. I love to brew beer. I sent every batch of beer to any competition just to get scores back. My homebrews have twice made it to nationals in the American Homebrew Competition. I read everything I could find related to homebrewing. I listened to hours and hours of podcasts. My garage looked like a brewery. Come brew day I had my computer out and my tattered composition book ready. It took me all day to brew a batch of beer and clean it all up. I would be exhausted and happy.
I have a 10-gallon (38-L) brewery that I put together myself. I cut the top off some kegs, attached two March pumps, whirlpool wand, and immersion chiller. I threw that on top of a couple Camp Chef burners. I fermented in a second-hand refrigerator with temperature regulators for the fridge and Ferm-wraps for my carboys. I had a second refrigerator with four taps that I could load up with 40 gallons (151 L) of beer. It was incredible. It was magnificent.
Because of a lack of time, I stopped brewing after my first child. I know what you are thinking; “You can do both.” I wish that were true with a toddler and infant. Even if I brewed an extract kit, it would still take me three hours from start to finish. I need that time to play, to do chores, and take care of everyday basics.
My brewery is literally on the shelf. I miss brewing. My beer was my baby until I had my own kids. The time I used to brew I now spend with my boys. However, once they are asleep, I still crack open a couple of beers and listen to a podcast before calling it a night. However, no more late nights for this guy. My oldest son (3) is up at 6 am and he’s hungry and ready to play.
Besides the whole process of brewing, I miss styles of beer that I was excellent at brewing that the craft scene doesn’t offer readily. I particularly love schwarzbier and black IPAs. That’s what I miss most, my beer, my house yeast, my process. My wife misses my beer. My friends miss my beer. But I don’t have the time to brew the way I want to brew.
Brewing a batch of beer to me meant starting a week before brew day, building yeast up for a starter from my yeast bank. I love working on the water profile. The smell from freshly ground grain was intoxicating. I took extra special care to ensure that everything was ready to go for brew day. My brew days (usually Saturday) started at 7 a.m., and I’d finish by 5 p.m. Part of brew day is the hard work involved. I love to work hard and be exhausted; it created pride for my wort. Hours after pitching I would poke my face into the fermentation chamber to see if my brew had started to bubble. I would be giddy. Then next morning was always the best; I could open the door, see the kräusen, hear the fermentation bubbling and get a nose full of that wonderful smelling yeast doing its thing. It is magnificent being the custodian of yeast. Creating the perfect environment for them was almost magical. I never got tired of it.
But the brewer is now on hiatus.
I don’t know what the years will hold. I do know that I love being a brewer. But the years that I spent carefully caring for yeast has transferred to carefully caring for my children. I’ll be back someday. Ironically, I will have the same remorse I had when I stopped brewing, but this next time it will be because my children don’t need as much of Papa’s time as they did when they were young. I now poke my face into their room, and I’m giddy to see how much they have grown.