To Boldly Go

As one of the world’s oldest beverage, beer is a well-trodden path.  The use of plants–grains, herbs, fruits, sugars—by humans to produce alcohol has been well covered, reproduced and discussed.  And yet, here I am, creating another document on beer and the making of it. Just as music was howled out primordially and raw, just as it became movements, as new instruments still wet from the womb were plucked and slapped and pounded, as people met in groups to perform and celebrate, as this music was formed and reformed with new attitudes—so has beer brought us together, challenged our tastes, and given us reason to celebrate.

When contemplating the purpose of this blog, I came to the conclusion that I did not want it to be simply another blog on homebrewing, nor did I want to wear down the  paths of beer culture and history. There are a great deal of people who know more on all of these subjects than I. Instead, I will speak from a personal perspective—this is the beer I make, these are my thoughts on the brewing of it, and to a larger degree, my beliefs on our relationship with it. So I’ve decided to take this plunge into putting it all down in words.

To exemplify this endeavor I have poured a bottle of a sour ale I brewed last December, knowing very little about how to make a sour ale and how much time should go into it. It is certainly sour, like biting into a lemon, and while it would benefit from carbonation, as well as less acetic acid (think vinegar), the smell of it brings me back to the time I brewed it and watched it bubble away in the fermenter. It brings me back to the first time I took a sample, and subsequently shared that sample, smiling at the puckering faces of my friends. This batch was a couple of firsts for me: I did not use malt extract and extracted the malt sugars myself, and I used brettanomyces and souring bugs for the first time. Here’s the recipe:

Red Beauty

Malt bill:

4lbs. Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)

3lbs. Munich Malt (9.0 SRM)

2lbs. Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM)

1lb. Wheat Malt, Bel (2.0 SRM)

8oz. Aromatic Malt (26.0 SRM)

8oz. Special B (180.0 SRM)

Hops:

1oz. East Kent Goldings (4.5%) for 60min.

1oz. Whole leaf Cascade dry-hopped

Yeast:

White Labs WLP650 Brettanomyces Bruxellensis

Dregs from Jolly Pumpkin La Roja and Bam Biere

Mash at 154 for one hour. My efficiency was low on this, so my target gravity was 1.050. Fermented hot, around 85 degrees in a bucket primary for four weeks, then transferred to a glass carboy for two-and-a-half months aging, or until fermentation has completely ceased. This stopped at about 1.008 for me, and did not move.

To say that my approach to beer is experimental is completely true. My tastes are often exploratory, and while I enjoy a well-crafted brown ale, I am more likely to try to make something that allows me more creative freedom. While I try to stay away from the gimmickry and extremism that many US craft brewers are guilty of, I want to explore, piece by piece.  My intent is not to be excessive or kitschy, but unique, with my ears to tradition and my eyes toward the horizon.

So here’s to knowledge and experience, here’s to new challenges and adventures–beer is just another (delicious) vehicle.  Here’s to enjoying it together.

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Filed under Beer Philosophy, Sour Ale

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