I Love You Beer, Worts and All

Last Drop
By Dave Carpenter
Reprinted with permission from Zymurgy Magazine.

A year after I started all-grain brewing, as I was diagnosing a string of curiously hazy homebrews, I found that my thermometer had developed a bit of a negative bias. Advantageous, perhaps, for a future in politics, but of little use to the serious brewer. I discovered modest, yet tolerable, inaccuracy at water’s boiling and freezing points, and splendid, glorious unreliability in the range of temperatures critical to mashing. Bother. An optimistic scale I might indulge (more hops!), but a dishonest thermometer I would not tolerate. So I went out and purchased an obscenely accurate and marvelously expensive model.

My beer cleared up straight away. But I began thinking: friends, family, and I had enjoyed with absolute sincerity every one of my murky, mis-mashed beers. Had our naïve appreciation been wrong? Did a new thermometer and bright beer suddenly invalidate our earlier experiences?
Of course not. Taking pleasure in a handcrafted, artisan product is the essence of our obsession, and infectious enthusiasm for our own little objets d’art can compensate for many a technical flaw. We enjoy myriad approaches to our hobby but share a common desire to create and savor. Sure, we’ll endlessly debate how to get there, but I think we’re all ultimately in it to quench a primal thirst for something satisfying, distinctive, and uniquely ours.

When I brewed my very first Belgian dubbel, I broke every rule of fermentation (I didn’t know there were rules) and turned out something so lavishly fruity that I promptly christened it Carmen Miranda’s Hat. But, you know, my girlfriend, my buddies, and I downed every last bit of it. It was neither what I’d set out to brew, nor a remotely faithful representation of the style, but it was beer, and something to be proud of. I delighted in those initial batches of stovetop extract beer every bit as much as I do the triple-decocted, first-wort-hopped exercises in madness that I create today with the help of assorted Rube Goldberg contraptions.

I don’t suggest that we stop improving how we brew, but rather that we always honor why we brew. And there are as many reasons as there are brewers. For some, it’s a way to relax on the weekend, a few hours spent not worrying and savoring several of one’s past efforts. For others, it’s an endless pursuit to nail the perfect example of a BJCP description. It’s even rumored that some save money by crafting their own beer, though I firmly believe Sasquatch will be positively identified well before these individuals. But we all brew to create something unique, and regardless of our particular approaches, we share a most satisfying goal.

So enjoy the journey. When next you lie awake, obsessing over yeast or hot side aeration, try visualizing and counting airlock bubbles. You’re a homebrewer, and a little uncertainty is OK.

Unless it’s a Bavarian lager. The Reinheitsgebot allows a handful of ingredients, and imprecision isn’t one of them.

Dave Carpenter is a writer and recovering engineer from Fort Collins, Colo. In addition to homebrewing, he enjoys hiking, skiing, traveling, and other gerunds. Follow him online at www.quaffablequips.com.


Edwardsville Fall Beer Festival

Club Members, come out and join us along with Global Brew at the Edwardsville Fall Beer Festival.

On November 10, from 11am to 6pm, Global Brew Tap House & Lounge will host a Fall Beer Festival in the Edwardsville City Park. There is no cover or ticket charge – proceeds from the event will be used to support the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity – Glen Carbon/Edwardsville.

Beer trailers featuring seasonal and special release brews including:

  • Schlafly (featuring TIPA)
  • Boulevard (featuring Smoke Stack Series)
  • 4 Hands
  • Urban Chestnut (featuring Triticum)
  • Goose Island

  • Food tents from Herzog’s Kitchen, Wang Gang, Papa Murphy’s,The Cup and Cleveland-Heath
  • Live music
  • Brewing demonstrations and information from the East Side Brewers

Edwardsville Fall Beer Festival

Ben’s Magical Brew Day at 2nd Shift

Ben's Brew Day @ 2nd Shift

On December 10th, 2011, long-time member Ben Cowan went to New Haven, Missouri, the home of 2nd Shift Brewery. Ben had paid to participate in a weekend brewing experience involving meals, a whole day of brewing experience, lodging, beer tasting, and memories for sure.

2nd Shift is a newer brewery that opened up in the past few years. They currently offer drafts and bottles of IPAs, Belgians, and Stouts. Favorites include Hibiscus Wit, Art of Neurosis, Cat Spit Stout, Unicorn Killer Saison, and LSD (Liquid Spiritual Delight).

Ben drove about an hour and a half to get to New Haven, and the total price for the whole weekend was $250. Ben had a full day of brewing Hibiscus Wit and that was followed by a beer tasting. Second shift offers a manor house to stay in and breakfast was included.

One of the many hints that Ben learned from this experience was about mash pH. A mash pH of under 5.0 will improve beer quality. I am sure that Ben will use this and other lessons learned to improve his brewing techniques. Please feel free to ask Ben of his experience when you see him next!

Ben's Brew Day @ 2nd Shift

Ben's Brew Day @ 2nd Shift

Brewery History

Interested in local brewing history?
Check out the new Brewery History section. Kevin Kious, local beer memorabia collector and author, gave us permission to republish a few articles that he co-wrote along with Donald Roussin. These were originally published in the American Breweriana Journal. 

Current articles cover the following locations:

Kevin is also one of the authors of St. Louis Brews: 200 Years of Brewing in St. Louis, 1809 – 2009, and the office manager at the international headquarters of the Brewery Collectibles Club of America in Fenton, MO. Here is a link to a recent article from the Metro St. Louis Suburban Journals on the BCCA.  http://bit.ly/BCCA20100824

-Cheers!