Sunday, February 22, 2009

2-22-09: Brew Night

Last night I had the pleasure of participating in "Brew Night" at the lovely home of the lady friend's co-workers and good friends Marcus and Kristen. Marcus, who has a PhD in Aerospace and is working towards an MBA from Carnegie Mellon, has been doing home brews for years, and I believe last night was his 25th batch. Let's just say he knows what he's doing, and the stories he told of his mistakes were pretty good.

I have some buddies who have recently gotten into the home brewing scene, and I've seen parts of the process, but never the beginning. It's amazing. The smells, the tastes, everything. It's pretty interesting stuff. Marcus walked me through the routine, starting with measuring and adding the barley and putting them in these, what I call, filter socks. Then there's the hops, which are quite strong. Apparently they've doubled in price since he started brewing, but the price is actually down from quadruple; there's been a "hops crisis" the past few years.

There were six of us at Brew Night: myself, the lady friend, Marcus, Kristen, and Sara-Lynn and her fiance John. All of us currently work or have worked at Sikorsky, so we had something in common. The occasion was originally supposed to be a house-warming party for Marcus and Kristen; they just moved in to their house a few months ago. However, they're still doing some painting and whatnot, and decided just to have a Brew Night. I did not complain.

Most of the work was done by Marcus and myself, with John helping to clean the carboy which is a 50+ gallon glass container that the beer first goes in (it goes into a smaller carboy in about a week for the second stage of fermenting). On that note: the process involves a lot of cleaning to keep things sterile, which is also quite neat to see. Marcus has the whole thing down to a science, and has all the tools and everything set up to make it pretty straight forward; things have to be added with to-the-minute precision during the boiling process (which takes about an hour) and the temperature had to be relatively close (I think he said between 155 and 168 degrees). The best part, though, was the smell. Unbelievable. You can see why I wanted to help out.

After all was said and done, we poured the now-warm beer into the carboy and put it down in the basement in a cool, dark place where it will sit for a week, then to be placed in the second carboy for another week, then into bottles. All in all, a very interesting experience. Perhaps some day I will try home brewing myself. But for now, I'll be taking tips from Marcus the Brewmaster. Can't wait to try the batch.

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