Thursday, May 2, 2019

The pendulum

Seven fat years and seven lean.

I haven't brewed in a while.  A couple of weeks after my last post, I decided I would start the brew inside by mashing in the kitchen. It was cold outside, and this had the advantage of using the stove to heat the mash liquor, saving on propane.  Typically, I'd do the mash in the kitchen, lauter into a bucket, and ferry the wort to the kettle outside, 3 gallons or so at a time. 

I finished up by mashing out, waited a few minutes, opened the spigot and....nothing. I got about a quart of wort. My mash was stuck.  Looking back, I'm pretty sure my water-supply-hose screen was clogged, but I'm not entirely sure.  It had been slow the last few brews, but I'd check it, run water backwards through it, etc. And now I couldn't get a 100% barley malt mash to lauter.

I attempted to ladle the mash out into a stock pot, with the intent of cleaning out the mash tun, slipped, and ended up spilling mash on the floor and dropping a full saucepan of mash into the tun, which then sent a geyser of mash in my face and over the ceiling and floor.  While I wasn't injured (it was hot enough to be damned uncomfortable, though), I was frustrated enough that I took the whole thing outside and dumped it on the compost pile.  I cleaned most of the kitchen, but there's a stain on the ceiling that tells me a) my wife will never let me brew indoors again and b) it's time to paint the ceiling. The mash tun hasn't moved since I put it away.

Shortly after this, I hurt my knee rolling in jiu jitsu, and needed to take some time off to focus on rehab. This means I needed to eat well and sleep well, which alcohol, even in small amounts for me, hinders.  Once my knee was feeling better, I went into the gym and started lifting again, to get stronger again (I feel that I would not have been hurt, had I been as sturdy as I have been in the past). Lifting weights on a linear progression program requires still more careful attention to recovery, and so beer took a further back seat. 

That was a few months ago, and I've had time to really think about brewing and drinking.  While I love to brew and love to drink, neither is a priority any more.

I started brewing in Mississippi in the dark ages (the late 1990s). It was actually illegal to homebrew in MS at the time, and the closest thing to craft beer (micro breweries, we called them) available was was Michelob dark, Guiness Extra, or Red Stripe and the very occasional dusty bottle of Sierra Nevada (stored warm on the gas station floor, I didn't realize it was a hoppy beer until years later). I brewed in my dorm room and made what was probably the best beer in town, although I don't think it would win any prizes now. I kept brewing over the years because there was almost always something unavailable that I wanted, and because I love the process.

Fast forward to today, and despite living in a small town in a rural community, I have three stores within two miles of my home that sell pretty much any beer you could want, usually in excellent condition. The only thing they are missing are good, fresh pub beers, and there's a small brewery within 15 minutes stuck in the 2000s (good thing to my mind) making a fine 5% abv amber ale (also circa 2004).  I can get bohemian pilsners, Belgo-American monstrosities, Juicy IPAs, well-made stouts, lagers, ales, sours, whatever I want.  Combine this with the fact that I am not drinking enough to justify having 20 gallons of beer on hand at all times, and brewing has not been happening. 

I know the bug will bite again, and I'll brew five batches in a row. For me, brewing is much more about brewing than about drinking. I love the process, I love the experimentation, and I love making something beautiful and better than the last time as I sharpen that process.  But for now I'm fine dropping in for a six pack now and again.

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