Prologue: The following was written months ago. I kept it in "draft" form until today, while looking for the inspiration of a post. I decided, perhaps it's time to post this... the Dunerbrew Story, Part 1.
I used to be creative! Imagination was limitless. Back in the day I'd write music, play the guitar, shoot crazy music videos, take the camera everywhere, spend hours in the dark room (showing my age a bit, perhaps). Film? What is film? In my younger years I wasn't much of a reader, but loved to watch movies. (To this day I can recite the first 30 minutes of Star Wars.) I used to draw. Not very good at it, but I didn't care. I used to be goofy... a bit odd, or off-centered perhaps. And these were qualities that for better or worse initially captured the interest of my wife (before she was my wife) all those years back.
Now... I don't even like to watch movies. The guitar is dusty and out of tune. The camera? Yep, got it here, but the battery needs charging, because you never know how much of it drains slowly between uses. Film? What was that again? It is so much easier now. So easy, my iPhone has replaced my Nikon for most applications. Reading? I've learned to read, but not fiction. Too much a waste of time. I need to spend my reading time actually learning something, being productive. After all, I don't want it to be time wasted on some silly story that isn't even true. And so it happens. Creativity turns to dullness. Excitement is lost to practicality. The creativity of my youth has morphed into the boredom of adulthood.
And then there was this new show on TV. Some dude in Delaware talking about making "Off Centered Ales for Off Centered People." He had a passion for his craft, and a creative mind for the types of beer his company would create. Then I tried one of the beers from this brewery, the 60 Minute IPA. Then I tried a 90 Minute IPA. I was hooked. How do I begin to make something this unique, this creative, this tasty?
September 2011: "Read these first, to see what you are getting into!" Sage advise from my wife.
My birthday gifts that year included "The Complete Joy of Homebrewing" by Charlie Papazian and "How To Brew" by John Palmer. A smart idea. I can't just jump into this new idea for a hobby without a clue as to what I am doing. From the first RDWHAHB (relax don't worry have a homebrew) to the explanation of building your own makeshift false bottom mash tun, I flew through the first book. "How To Brew" is a little more detailed, and for the newbie it confused me in some areas. Much of the process was described similarly to Papazian's, which makes sense. I knew that it is important to learn how to ride with training wheels first. The basic knowledge would be enough to get me started and with some experience the other details would begin to clear up.
It was now time to shop for the brew kit! I think it was $100 exactly, and I came home with a bottling bucket, plastic carboy, canes, tubes, cleanser, bottle brush, Brown Ale kit, and bag of corn sugar. I was ready to go. I drove away, proud and excited. I was going to be a brewer! The trip to the brewshop did spark a concern though. The "retail" environment with helpful friends beer-geeky personnel wasn't to be found. I think I was able to get three sentences out of the shop owner. "Which kit do you want?" "What kind of beer do you like?" (With regard to the beer kit that came with the equipment.) "Most people order online and just come to pick up here." Wow, he was so helpful. Without any friends who knew anything about beer, and this guy clearly wasn't going to be a resource, it was me and my books, starting on a new adventure.
Recipes are great! But recipes are for followers. I had my new equipment and a can of extract syrup (with the hops included), a bag of corn sugar, and the directions from the back of the can. It didn't even call for boiling the the wort. Well, you can't make beer without boiling things, so I began heating up water. I wanted to make the beer a bit stronger than what was called for so decided that extra corn sugar would add fermentables to the beer. I also added some brown sugar. It was a brown ale, so I figured this would only help. Aside from the boil over and fighting to keep it all in the pot on the stove, I think the batch went well. I put it in the bucket, added the yeast and after a day or so, the airlock began to bubble. I was making beer!
Attention to details: On bottling day, I was frantic to make sure the bottles were sanitized, that I had all the caps and all the stuff around to make it happen properly. I racked the beer to the bottling bucket, added the priming sugar (corn sugar again), and was ready to go. Bottling 40+ bottles can sure be a drain. At the end of the bottling, I looked back into the bucket to fine a clump of corn sugar still there in the bucket. I clearly had forgotten to boil the corn sugar first, to both sanitize it and make a solution with the water. Oops! I just dumped it onto the beer and stirred for a few seconds. I knew better, and should have done it properly.
Back to the book, what is next? Wait two weeks before it is ready to drink...Ugh.
It was the longest two weeks of my life, waiting for that first batch to be "primed" and ready for tasting. As you may have guessed, upon opening the first bottle, that anticipated sound of pressure release wasn't to be found. I had created beer which was pretty darn flat. The flavor was OK (I think) but without the carbonation it was vary disappointing.
To this day, I still have one bottle of this first batch in the refrigerator. I may open it up on the second anniversary of it's brewing. (Present day commentary...still have it, well past the 2nd anniversary.)
The excitement (and disappointment) of that first batch prompted me to quickly begin the search for a recipe on the next batch. This time I would add some steeping grains to the extract, and add my own hops on a schedule to the beer. How about an IPA?
To be continued...