Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sidetracked By Homebrewing

I had planned to take time to write a blog today but I have been sidetracked by beer-making, a hobby I've had going on four years now.  I'm not a huge beer drinker these days but I do enjoy having a good, tasty brew after work.

When I was younger, especially my late teens and early twenties when I was in the Air Force and single, I had a stronger resistance to alcohol, once downing an entire case of beer in one 24 hour period, which was an admirable accomplish because it was Carling's Black Label. That was in 1969 and I don't know if it's even made anymore but that was about all we could get at the base where I was stationed at in Vietnam. That, and Hamm's. Coors if we were real lucky.

It all depended on who got dibs when the shipments were unloaded at the Qui Nhon docks by the U.S. Navy, and since we were at the lip of the central highlands our little Base Exchange got what was left after the bigger guys got their pick.

The other side of the Black Label coin was, however, that a case costs only $2.40, the same as a case of Coca-Cola. That affordability made a good case for opting for beer over something like marijuana, and we drank a lot of beer, especially on our one day off a week. It was on one of those days off that football's third Super Bowl was played. Being in an entirely different hemisphere it came on the radio sometime around one or two in the morning which meant a lot of beer drinking and it was on that night I went through a full case. As far as I can remember.

My guzzling days are mercifully over and I take joy in having the no more than one beer at a sitting.

When I started making beer back in 2010, my wife had been making her own wine for a while, and had invested a certain amount of money in the equipment - buckets, carboys, siphoning tubes, etc. - and we were talking about the quality of beer I had been buying at the supermarket or liquor stores in Socorro and Albuquerque.  One of the types of beer I had grown fond of was stout, and also porters. The darker the better.

I told her the one thing about store-bought that stout that troubled me was the price, which was usually around ten dollars for a carton of six, and since I was accustomed to having a beer after work everyday this was putting a small dent in our tight budget.

The next time we were in Albuquerque we stopped by Victor's Grape Arbor where she would sometimes pick up supplies for her wine-making. The store also carries everything needed for making beer, so on a whim I bought a kit to make Imperial English Stout, which cost about twenty dollars. The next task was to collect two cases woth of empty beer bottles, so I started saving the bottles from store-bought beer. Not the screw tops, though, just the good stuff.

That first kit worked out well, making just over two cases of very good stout, and I was surprised at how simple it was. Fermentation and conditioning takes about six weeks, but the time I spend actually doing something, including brewing and bottling, is only about six hours. The most fun comes when experimenting with different flavorings, hops and yeasts.and the cost comes to fifty or sixty cents a bottle.

Since then I have made over forty home brews, ranging from low alcohol wheat ales to more exotic chocolate stouts and coffee porters. Right now I've got a lime cerveza and a cherry stout going, conditioning in the bottle.

Anyway, I haven't had time to write anything today, so I'll make time to write and post something tomorrow. Or not.

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