With apologies to the Friends disciplines that warned of intoxicating beverages or to friends who are longtime members of twelve-step programs, let me confess to the period when I was an amateur homebrewer. I’ve recently retired from it, recycled the bottles, and distributed the gear. But it was an educational experience. (Seriously.) I never got as detailed as my friend Eric, with his sensitive scale to measure ingredients or his original recipes. No, the pre-measured kits from Stout Billy’s were unbeatable, especially when I learned ways to travel “cross country” to make double stouts or double bochs. And I soon bypassed the alcohol level measurements, a move that gave me one more bottle from each kettle of brewing.
My wife’s long been fascinated by the role of yeast in civilization. Think of bread or yogurt, for starters. We like the story that across Europe, the bakery and brewery were side-by-side, both relying on the yeast culture. She even baked some bread from our used beer yeast, though the younger daughter objected to its taste. Still, we know it can be done.
Yeast makes the difference between ales and lagers. The ale yeasts thrive at slightly warmer temperatures, such as the British Isles, compared to the lagers, of German fame, especially. (Pilsner is a sub-set of lager.) I soon fell into a pattern of brewing and bottling ales in the fall, before Christmas, when I’d take a break before launching into lagers. In all, I created more than 2,500 bottles, each one “hand crafted.”
Well, the Irish musicians did declare my stout tasted like the Guinness in Dublin – not the stuff they ship here. And I’ll take that as the highest complement, along with their smiles as they drank while playing.