And what happens when I have a vested interest in beer and try to get those around me to participate in said interest
(A quick note to those who aren’t in the know, I started brewing beer recently. It’s been an incredible learning experience and has opened up some very interesting situations for me. Also, it’s allowed me to explore one of my favorite substances! BEER.)
Before the holiday festivities get the blog treatment, I should probably lead up with a bit of a back story. It would be pretty awkward if you though that for no reason whatsoever I was transported to Reno, NV for Thanksgiving when I actually live in SoCal. Well, I don’t think that I’ve mentioned it, but I grew up in Reno. 18 long hard years of freezing winters (Seriously, Dec. 8 of this year the high was 17 F.), sweltering summers (it’s a desert. In every sense of the word), some of the trashiest people I’ve ever known (And I live in LA.), a never ending sense that if you can’t gamble you’re not allowed to have fun (And I hate gambling. So. It’s all bad.), and a general belief that really, there must be something out there better than this.
So, that’s my unfiltered opinion of Reno. Generally, not positive. There is however a small oasis in Spanish Springs, a pseudo-town on the north side of Reno & Sparks. It’s a large house with a good chunk of land, a barn, horses, and my parents. Probably the only part of Reno that I enjoy. And thankfully, the drive up to Reno can be pretty too. And this year, since Christmas & New years fall on a Wednesday (Worst day EVER for those two holidays), it looked like I was driving up to Reno for the Thanksgiving holiday. In an attempt to add to the oasis and the festivities, I was able to hook up an awesome brew day with my cousin. And I was bringing up a secret weapon from SoCal to kick it all up a bit; make an especially exciting experience...
23+ Liters of Beer
Which, if you don’t know, is a TON of beer. And as luck would have it, every single drop of that beer turned out to be completely necessary. For a few reasons. First and foremost being this was quickly shaping up to be a beer fueled holiday. Not in the sense of a college douchebag beer fueled sports event that may come to mind when someone may mention that something is beer fueled, but a holiday weekend dedicated to great family, great fun, and great beer throughout. Even down to our turkey were we utilizing the wonderfully fermented barley and hop nectar to turn this years Thanksgiving feast into a beer infused experience. This Stone recipe can be found here:
BUT I DIGRESS FROM WHAT REALLY MATTERS
So first things first:
LIGHT THE FIRES.
GET YOUR HELPERS
OFF THE TRAMPOLINE
I’d mentioned that this was an experience. That may have been a little bit of me over-reaching my assumptions, but I can say definitively that it was an experience for me. I would like to assume that for my father and my cousin it was also an experience, but I’ll have to wait for them to read this and throw in their own two cents to confirm that assumption. For me, this was an experience for multiple reasons, of which I will now explain to you!
An all-grain brew day requires more equipment, more experience, and more time. All of which is perfectly fine in a place such as my cousins beautiful home and expansive garage. My apartment won’t do an all-grain brew as of this moment, so I can only brew extract brew. But having the chance to step up and try all-grain with someone as experienced as my cousin was a great opportunity, and a little frightening. But. . .
What you always need to remember is to have a brew while you brew. In this case we had a plethora of beers from SoCal (Stone, Golden Road, Strand, Angel City), Japan (Hitachino), and lots of Reno homebrew (From the Bean Family Brewery, of course). Even some crazy amazing apple cinnamon moonshine. That’ll hopefully turn into another entirely new experience for me! I’ll have to build a still!
But besides the great beer and moonshine, you can’t get distracted from what you’re brewing! And in this case I didn’t have much time to get distracted since as mentioned before, all-grain is quite a bit more involved. Jordan had me testing the pH balance of our water, monitoring our mash boil to a degree that was far beyond my previous brewing expeditions, and using all sorts of equipment that was new to me.
A good example of this would be obviously the pH balance tester, the acid we used to even out the pH, home made kegs for brew pots and lauter tuns, outdoor propane powered burners (Which are HUGELY more effective), a rotating sparge tool (Which unfortunately wasn’t as effective as hoped), and most importantly: A real cooling solution for the finished wort. This is something that I gravely need.
Funny enough, even with all of the additional equipment and incredibly helpful cousin, we still managed to get a bit stuck when racking to our fermenter. Which is how it seems to go when brewing beer. Something is always going to be a little off, and lots of things are going to go well and smell amazing and taste sweet and bitter and all around amazing. Half of brewing is about the experience. And relaxing and having a brew.
And in the end, that was exactly what I got. An experience with brewing that was beyond what I’d done before, and that I learned a lot from. There’s so much that can be done with beer, and there’s so much that you can do to learn at your own pace and brew beer however you’d like. I may still be brewing only extract right now, but even the knowledge I’ve gathered from an all-grain batch is helpful. And it always equates out to more fun!
And looking back at it now, I had one of the best days in Reno (Remember what I said about earlier? Me saying anything good about Reno is rare) I’ve had in a long time. Mom, before you angrily message me about that statement, I mean outside of the Whitaker house and your company. Calm down.
And as I’m here brewing an advanced extract brew on my stove top (Double IPA FTW) I’m thinking one thing right now. When I read through Charlie Papazian’s “The Complete Joy of Homebrewing” , one thing the author kept mentioning was that it’s always better to brew with someone. Now that I’ve done a batch with Jordan and my father Brad? I can not agree more whole heartedly.
Now, some of you may be asking why the hell you’d make your own beer instead of just going and buying a six-pack. That actually was a question posed on brew day, as a matter of fact. And I can understand the question from a certain point of view, even if it isn’t mine. There’s a certain amount of dedication that you need to brew beer. You need to do your research, you need to buy equipment, you need to know what you want to brew and then get the recipes for that brew and then get the supplies to make that beer. You need to take notes like a crazy college student. There’s a full day of brewing that goes into the process, and then there are weeks of worrying about whether or not your beer came out the way you intended. And then there’s the process of bottling or kegging. And if you’re bottling with bottle caps, it’s no small undertaking. In fact, I use pop tops and Jordan doesn’t even bother. He just kegs.
But like all projects that can be called DIY, there’s more than just the outcome of the project. It’s also about what I just said: the input. The energy that we put into the beer is not only appreciated by those of us that are brewing, but those that we share the beer with. And let’s not forget that if you think DIY projects (Or funny enough, cooking) in general are fun, where the process and the outcome are both equally enjoyable, then beer making is one amazing DIY to enjoy because it fulfills all of that and then some. It’s been an incredible learning experience (That’s no joke. A good sizable chunk of brewing beer is like taking a high school science class, full of beakers, liquid yeast strains, pH balances, enzyme conversions, protein rests, and sooo much more), it’s been a time-consuming process full of learning through experience, and it can be a challenge. And yet in the end, even though the process can be as complicated as you’d like and I’ve done a good job of making it sound stressful, it’s still an enjoyable hobby that is incredibly relaxed and is almost guaranteed to be better with a group of friends to brew with. Then you get to enjoy beer that is usually better than what you can get in your local liquor store. Trust me on that one.
So, my answer to the question, "Why?"?
Because everything in life that is worth a damn is better when you put your all into it.
Beer is no exception.
This will be a little bit of an odd shout out for me, since it’s not to a specific person. Well, I guess it kind of is, but really this is also for the rest of the staff too. Anyways, this post’s shout out goes to Strand Brewery, and especially one of the co-owners, Rich Marcello. I’ve been going to Strand brewery for some time now; I rock climb in South Bay and Strand is conveniently located a few short minutes away for a glass and a growler fill after climbing (Beer hydrates better than water, remember?). Strand Brewery has never left me disappointed. Rich is one of the nicest guys you can meet, everyone else that works there does an excellent job and are incredibly happy to be there, and the beer is excellent. Seriously, if you get a chance to try their White Sand IPA or their Orange Wit do not hesitate. So if you’re ever in SoCal and have the chance to stop by 23520 Telo Ave, Torrance, CA you should most definitely take some time and stop by this little brewery. And after you’ve had a White Sand, try everything else. And then some. And while you’re there, mention to Rich that I said:
I tip my hat to Strand Brewery & Rich Marcello