So I started this grand adventure in 2013. It started out rather impulsively with my birthday money. (Yes, my mother still gives me birthday money!) At the time my wife was into fermenting food for it’s pro-biotic benefits. She suggested that making beer involved fermenting …and why don’t I give it a try?
Had she only known what she would unleash!
I’ll be honest. Before that I was no beer snob. I drank pretty run of the mill beer. My go to everyday choice was Lienenkugel’s original. If I really wanted to impress someone on the holidays I’d get some Sam Adams. I thought of my beer consumption as part of my daily routine. Generally one beer a night either with dinner or as an after dinner treat. And that is still pretty much my practice, though sometimes it’s so tasty I have two. 🙄
So that was that. I ran off to our local homebrew store (LHBS) which just happens to be Northern Brewer. Picked up a deluxe starter kit with glass carboys and selected the Irish Red Ale as my included extract kit. I already had a 4 gallon pot that I was able to make work with half volume boils on my stove top. This kept my price of entry pretty low.
My first brew day was pretty cool. I managed my way through the direction pretty well. Sprinkled the included dry yeast packet on top and set it in my basement to do its thing. Like many of us I was amazed at the transformation that happened over the next couple of days. Still wort, gunk (trub) settled out, a little bit of foam (Krausen)…then WOW! That thing was rockin’ & rollin’. I sat there with a flashlight for many minutes watching those little buggers swirl around. It was really a marvel.
That batch turned out pretty damn good. Bottling was another adventure, but again beginners luck saw me through. I named the first batch after my favorite dog Roxy, Roxy’s Ragin’ Irish Red. That batch was amazingly tasty. I had been missing so much flavor! When that was gone I had a few bottles of commercial brew left (which admittedly were probably a little skunked by this time) and it was horrific compared to the beer I just made. There was no turning back at this point.
My beginners luck held out through a few more batches. There was a Scottish 80 schilling, then I got really brave and made a Bourbon Barrel Porter. I even splurged on Makers Mark for the endeavor. Each one was tasty and this was so easy!
Then spring rolled around, and warmer temperatures, and I wanted to make a new stock of the Irish Red. It was awful. …and this is where my this hobby really turned into an obsession. What I didn’t know at the time is that my basement had heated up to the point that fermentation temps were likely into the 70’s. It took me a good lot of research to figure out what happened. I loved every minute of it. I had found something rewarding, allowed me to be creative and make something with my own two hands, and most importantly took my mind off of my very stressful job. I was in love.
This phase led to a whole series of DIY projects. Maybe some day I’ll get around to documenting them. It was also about this time that I got sick of bottling and found a Keezer on Craigslist. Then there was the water bath fermentation control, then a convoluted contraption that used my keezer and some cheap pumps to circulate cool water around the fermenter. Oh yeah, and by this time I had found HomebrewTalk. If you have not checked them out yet it is a must. It is like my homebrew club online. I have learned a ton of what I know from that forum and the many kind and knowledgeable people who are members.
So it went on like this for a year. By my one year anniversary of being a brewer I had purchased Beersmith. It helped me bridge the gap between all of those arcane formulas in How to Brew and my highly inadequate math skills!
I continued to learn and grow in my skill level. And then I found The Brewing Network. Now homebrewing could be my constant companion as I drove along in my car.Things were going great. So why not add another level of complexity? All grain brewing was the next step. …which I’ll cover in part II…