Show off your holiday lights and you could win an iPad! Enter your photo by December 13. Winner will be selected by popular vote.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Recently, spring cleaning around my house has caused me to have to deal with a large volume of homemade beer.
Years ago I was an avid home brewer. About every two weeks I would come home on Friday evening, place a canning pot on the stove with a couple of gallons of water and bring it to a boil, adding specialty grain, malt extract syrup, spray malt and plugs of sticky green hop flowers with their intense conifer aroma. The aroma generated in this cooking process appeals to brewers, but not many others. Once a friend entered my house and commented, “Smells like you are cooking spinach!”
After boiling the concoction for about an hour, I would pour it through a screened funnel into a 5-gallon glass carboy and rinse the steaming hop residue with enough cold water to almost fill the vessel. After cooling to barely warm, yeast would be added, kicking off the fermentation process.
The carboy was a marvel to watch — swirling particles in brown liquid, resembling a liquid cyclone. The yeast cells multiply exponentially at first, eating sugar voraciously and emitting alcohol, carbon dioxide and heat.
After about a week, things would settle down inside the carboy, and the murky brown liquid would begin to clear. At this point I would rack the liquid into a clean carboy, leaving more than an inch of yeast sludge behind. This optional extra step produces clearer beer and reduces the likelihood of over-carbonated beer and the dreaded exploding bottles. (I only had one batch that suffered from this malady.)
At the time of bottling, about 48 12-ounce or other sized bottles were sterilized with a bleach solution. A small amount of sugar or malt extract was boiled, added to the 5 gallons of beer and the bottles filled.
I would then crimp metal crown caps on the bottles and label each cap with a symbol denoting the name of the batch. I kept a notebook with the recipes (each was different) and any notes pertinent to the batch. I gave each batch a name, such as Avogadro’s Expeditious Old Ale.
So now I find myself faced with an assortment of beers with an average age of 20 years. I still have the notebook so I know which batch I am sampling.
So far I have tried about eight of these old vintages. I discovered an Irish stout, bottled in 1992, that is still quite good with a dark chocolate note. Some of the other batches are less impressive, with aromas reminiscent of dirty laundry or the men’s room at a Virginia rest area.
Be aware that commercial beer has a shelf life of about 90 days. Things like barleywine and double IPAs with increased alcohol will last longer. Back when I made the beer it was usually excellent, being drinkable as soon as two weeks after bottling. The reason I kept making beer was that it was delicious and cheap! I could brew a batch as good as a microbrew at less than one fourth of the cost.
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were both avid home brewers. When the Volstead Act forbade alcohol production in 1919, brewers became outlaws.
In 1933 the 21st Amendment legalized alcohol again, but a clerical error resulted in the omission of the word “beer” from the home winemaking statute. In 1978 President Jimmy Carter signed H.R. 1337, which allowed beer to be brewed at home for personal consumption.
Today, the only states that prohibit home brewing are Alabama and Mississippi. In 1984 Charlie Papazian published his excellent book, “The Complete Joy of Homebrewing,” which served as my guide when I was making beer.
The American Homebrewers Association estimates that approximately 1 million folks brew beer today in the United States. It is definitely a fun and tasty hobby if you have a few hours a week to devote to it.
Contest for brewers
For you home brewers there is a brewing contest afoot.
On June 8, the Beertopia Craft Beer Festival will take place at the Salem Red Sox stadium. Connected to that is the Beertopia Home Brew Competition.
The judging will take place at Parkway Brewing Company in Salem and the winner will be announced at the festival. Parkway will brew a batch of the winning recipe. For more information, visit www.biglickbeertopia.com.
The deadline for registration is May 10, so don’t dawdle! I recommend drinking your home brew before it gets as old as mine.
Gordon Kendall’s column on wine and spirits runs monthly in Extra.
Weather JournalEarly mix, then ice storm Sunday