Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Waiting is the Hardest Part: Homebrew Update #1

Cooking and home brewing have many similarities.

You have your ingredients, you follow a recipe, there's a bunch of utensils, accessories and implements... but there's one important difference I had sorta pushed to the back of my mind.

When I cook something it's usually ready to eat, if not immediately, then pretty darn soon. Brewing – as I was quickly reminded – is a lot of "hurry up and wait". Though I must admit that the advancements in brew kits over the past 15 years have made the cooking part of the process a lot less painless.

The Hungover Gourmet Homebrew Throwdown got started last Friday when I took advantage of my daughter's last day of camp till mid-August. The Mr. Beer Home Brewing System was hauled out, assembled, reviewed and readied for action. A quick read of the directions refreshed my memory on the basics, though it feels like there's much more emphasis on sanitization than there was back when I was doing this in the mid-to-late 90s.

Some of the reasons that I ended up pulling the plug on my earlier career as an amateur brewmaster included: a) the time it took to brew up a batch; and, b) the amount of equipment I seemed to be amassing. By the time I moved from Pittsburgh back to the Philly area I had cases and cases of bottles, at least two 5 gallon carboys, tubing, stoppers, cappers, siphons, hops, malt, yeast... the list goes on.

With Mr. Beer you get the mini keg pictured above, ingredients and some plastic bottles. You provide a few handy implements (like a spoon, measuring cup and can opener) and you're ready to go.

Why didn't I get one of these sooner?

Mr. Beer employs malt extract kits similar to what I was already used to, and they're even manufactured by the folks at Cooper's (same folks who had the larger malt extract kits I was already familiar with, though Mr. Beer kits are already hopped). It wasn't long before the old techniques were kicking in (like soaking the extract can in hot water so the syrupy contents would flow more evenly) and the kitchen was filled with familiar aromas.

To be frank, I'm still a bit suspicious of the barrel-shaped Mr. Beer keg that's currently residing in my pantry. (I keep checking the pantry, half expecting my canned goods and paper products to be soaked with warm, flat half-beer.) The oversized five-gallon carboy with the air lock has been replaced by the cute-looking keg with its notched lid and bottling spigot, but everything seems to be progressing as both the instructions indicate and my memory suggests.

And now, we wait.

To be continued...

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