Couples That Brew Together . . .

For my husband and I, brew day is an entertaining combination of teamwork and social activity. Our friends, however, might be even more amused watching my husband and I work through the challenges that come when two first-borns who’ve had a beer or two want to complete a technical project together.

Here’s how it usually goes: We agree on a beer style and a date. Certain special friends are invited to come hang out, drink beer, and observe the process. I procure a recipe or create my own and a few days before the appointed time, my husband and I go shopping at the local supply store, which doubles as a tasting room and therefore makes for a nice date night.

When b-day (brew day) arrives, my husband gets all the equipment out of the garage, brings it into the kitchen, and we see which hoses need to be replaced and what needs cleaning. This is when we usually scratch our heads a bit trying to get our ducks in a row because it’s been a few months. Out come the lists and timelines I thoughtfully saved in Evernote from the previous b-day. Then there’s the inevitable last minute trip back to the supply store or to Home Depot for some small part that’s gone missing.

Early on in our brewing adventures we experimented with mixing up special water profiles, using some of our well water mixed with RO to get just the right pH, but that never made enough of a difference in the final taste to justify. Straight well water reduces arguments and has produced some pretty tasty beers along the way.

Once the water is sorted out and measured, the table is laid out with hops, stirring spoons, and Irish moss. The mash tun is set near the burner with the big stainless kettle ready to go. Our friends arrive to witness the witty husband and wife repartee and roll their eyes at the comedic tension that ensues. “The spray bottle, THE SPRAY BOTTLE!! Now! Boiling over, hurry! Stir it! 30 seconds, now pay attention. A WHAT fell into the pot? Shut up! You’re scaring my friends!”

One batch we secretly named Old Shriveled Anole when it was discovered a moment too late that a little lizard had taken up residence in the copper coils of our chiller. The little guy tried to escape but met an untimely end in the boiling wort. I discreetly picked it out before our guests noticed. At least I hope they didn’t notice, but someone may have picked up on the shocked and disgusted looks on our faces. Still, if they did, they didn’t say anything about it and everyone, including us, certainly enjoyed the beer a couple months later.

It’s anti-climatic when all the clamor of the last few minutes of the boil is over, wort is chilled, the bucket lid is secured, and it’s clean up time. The guests slowly file out and before you know it, husband and I are alone with a sticky pot and hoses to clean. In those moments our glances at each other show the satisfaction of a job well done. Somehow, we grow closer through the shared bond of knowing that we made the magic happen again, and we still like each other.

You could say that for us, brew day is a test of the husband and wife relationship. And you might be right. But we like to see it as more of a semi-public display of the complicated but beautiful dance that results after 25 years of marriage, 2 pints of beer, 4 kinds of hops, and the capricious nature of wort and lizards.

Issue: January-February 2018