Beer is on the Way

So many beers! So I recently discovered that my own dear sister and brother-in-law also brew. We were discussing the not so finer points one day and decided that the only way to really have homebrew at the ready all the time is to brew without ceasing! So in that spirit, I have two going now. Well actually I had two and I bottled one the other day. Time for another 🙂

My method so far has been to add one new technique or level of complexity to my skills with every batch. So for the porter I brewed a few weeks ago, I went off the map and added a tin of molasses, not exactly knowing what that would do to things. For the next batch, a special bitter, I used dried extract instead of syrup in addition to the mini mash.

I do have some concerns with these two batches though.

One: the porter. This is my Sweet Dead Lion brew. It was originally the Southern ‘Gent, named for the molasses and pecans that went into the brewpot. At the homebrew store, I picked up some pecan extract as well, (it was in the “pecan porter” recipe I used as a template). Well, I was a little hesitant to throw it in, it smelled so buttery and strong. So I only put half an oz. in the entire 5.25 gal batch. But after a quick taste test, I fear even that was too much! Dang it! I don’t want a syrupy buttery beer. Who does? This is how I learn. Time will tell. Those 51 bottles are just mellowing out now. And I wait.

Two: the special bitter. Ever since I first read a chapter on “Great Beers of the World,” I’ve been intrigued by the classic English “special bitter” style ale. Just something about it. What I’ve read has formed a lovely idea in my mind. A delicious, medium colored, medium bodied, not too sweet, not too bitter, mellow ale. (Oddly, “bitterness” is not usually a characteristic of the bitter ales, how funny). Well, I used a recipe from the Complete Joy of Homebrewing and with a little help from my friends at the homebrew store, I got all the ingredients and more. I was so excited about it. But then, I got maybe a little too excited and added just a tiny bit of lavender in the last two minutes of the boil, for an herbacious aroma. Again with adding things, this is such a rooky post! I tasted it after only 6 days (probably a terrible time for a taste test). It was of course, warm and flat, and cloudy and not at all “beer-like.” But I knew those things would be true, and I tuned my buds to taste past all that, and determine if the true essence of the beer would yield… well, happiness. But argh. I just don’t know if I liked the lavender. Again, time will tell. And she waits.

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First Batch of Homebrew: Success

Ok so I would have been excited if the batch created anything even remotely resembling beer. But this is actually really awesome! In fact, it’s so good it’s almost gone.  All 41 bottles to the batch. And I’ve been enjoying it so much, I have been forgetting to post. Cheers! Golden Ale goes down easy.

Rack it up.

I racked my batch of Bennie’s Midnight Lark today. The siphon worked perfectly and gave me a little flashback to high school chemistry class. I liked it.

The beer is a really nice rich color. Pretty clear too, but a few floaties are sitting right on the top. They look small and piecey like fragments of grain husks or something. The sludge at the bottom of bucket #1 went right into the compost. Smelled hoppy, and not nearly as offensive as it looked.

I’m glad it’s in a glass carboy now so I can obsessively look at it. Although it’s pretty much still now, no bubbles.

Next step is priming/bottling, woohoo! From what I’ve read, regular granulated sugar is fine to use. But I may call the folks at the homebrew store just to be sure.

Bennie’s Midnight Lark

I am changing the name of my first brew, because something magical happened. The magic has nothing to do with the beer, I’m not that good (yet).

So relax, don’t worry, and have a homebrew while I tell this little tale. It’s kinda long. I’m indulging here. Sorry. My blog. Ha!

On our twice-daily foot-powered commute, my spouse Mudcat and I pass through a neighborhood with huge houses, expansive yards, and all kinds of dogs. One particularly special dog, a goofy sweet yellow lab, used to greet us with tons of tail wagging and happy dog dancing every morning and evening. We don’t have a dog (yet), so we pretty much fell in love with this guy. Mudcat bonded hard with this fella through the front gate. They had a special understanding.

Well on Thanksgiving weekend, we came hiking up the hill and the dog wasn’t there. On the post nearby was a flyer with his photo. “Missing: Yellow lab named Bennie. We all love Bennie! Please help us find him.” Ugh, the heartbreak! I admit, I cried silent bitter tears the whole way home. We speculated that someone had taken “our” dog, and worked up a considerable froth of anger to fill the void. He was irresistible, and always out in the yard where anyone could open the gate and coax him out. What is WRONG with people!

The next day, we saw the homeowner for the first time. Mudcat said “Hey man, sorry to hear about your dog. Any word?” The man’s thin face fell, “No we just don’t know what happened. The gate was closed but he was gone. Thanks for saying something though, it really means a lot.” We introduced ourselves and learned his name was “Ames.” (Awesome name, sweet guy). Then the next evening, hiking up that same hill (with sad eyes and a little less pep) we heard a smash followed by a child screaming. Our feet followed our ears to the alley. It was dark, but we could make out a man with his daughter, maybe 8-9 years old. Looked like she’d been learning to ride her bike and got a little road rash. “That you, Ames?” Mudcat called into the alley. Ames again. And that little girl, she must be missing Bennie! He thanked us for our concern. We were getting more involved with Bennie’s family each day. Somehow it eased the heartache. But I was still considering an alternate route for our daily walk, so we wouldn’t have to pass that big empty yard.

Meanwhile, I started brewing my first batch of beer. (That is how little beer has to do with this story. Are you still reading? Wow.)

Yesterday evening, we came trekking up that hill, and I felt a familiar rising hope, (usually followed by a crushing wave of disappointment) as we neared Ames’ house. I heard a bark, probably the neighbor’s dog. It was cold, and I put my head down and settled in for the worst part of the hill. But then, a shocking yellow blur came bounding over the top of the yard, down to the fenceline. I believe we uttered “No…..WAY” in unison. Bennie was there, and as ecstatic as we were. If he’d had lips, he’d have been smiling… if we’d had tails, they’d have been wagging. Doggie dances all around. We ran up the hill to a very sweet reunion. I was speechless (for once). We’re going to write a congratulatory card for Ames and family.

The good stuff doesn’t happen that way very often. So in acknowledgement of a true miracle, I’m renaming my very first Texas Golden Kolsh homebrew “Bennie’s Midnight Lark” (formerly Midnight Sun).