I have a lot of respect for breweries.
More than ever before, in fact. Because we tried to make our own beer at home and it went very, very wrong.
My aunt Lise (my #1 commenter, actually) has a knack for gift giving. Last year, she acquired the perfect Christmas gift for Cedric: a Brooklyn Brew Shop beer making kit for the Every Day IPA. Cedric loves beer – IPAs in particular – so I knew this gift would be a hit.
Christmas morning brought joy to Cedric’s heart (I presume, anyway – I was back home for Christmas). Cedric and his friend attempted to begin the beer making process, but a glance at the instructions revealed that it would take about a month to make, so they put the kit aside.
Then we moved, then we did some renovations, then we went on vacation, then we hiked the West Coast Trail – there never seemed to be a perfect time to start the brewing process. Until the start of November.
The night before my marathon, we were (rather, I was) feeling a little antsy. We decided that now would be the perfect time to undertake the brewing. So we gathered our supplies, pulled up the written instructions, read through them, watched the instructional video, and began.
I’d be lying if I said everything went smoothly on the first day. It started off well enough – equipment sanitized, ingredients organized – but we didn’t have a pot large enough to see us through the process.
We ended up juggling the contents between three different pots, sanitizing everything the best we could.
Dealing with the mash was tricky, too. Our strainer was too small, so we had to sort of split it up into two batches. Still, by the end of the first night, everything looked how it was supposed to look.
As per the directions, we stored it in dark place at room temperature. Here it is in its little nook:
We kept peeking to see if the bubbles were starting. They were! It was working! A couple of days later, we fiddled with the airlock (as instructed), then let it be for awhile.
We waited patiently for two weeks, allowing the fermentation stuff to happen. Finally, it was on to the next step: bottling. We anticipated this stage to be relatively easy.
We were wrong.
The siphoning system was very, very tedious. We were losing concerning amounts of beer in the process of siphoning from jug to pot.
I was frantically Googling everything I could find to see if we were doing it wrong. It turns out that other people had the same problem we did. They suggested buying some electric device that would do the trick more efficiently. Too late for that.
Slowly but surely, we siphoned all of the good stuff into the pot, leaving the murky stuff at the bottom of the glass jug. Then, we read the next direction: “Siphon beer from pot into bottles.”
At this rate, we would have about a third of a bottle of beer left! This is where we decided to take matters into our own hands.
And this, I speculate, is where things went wrong.
The liquid in the pot looked clear, so we figured there would be no harm in simply funneling the pot’s contents into the bottles. We ended up with two and a half very large bottles of beer. But it would be another two weeks until they could be consumed.
In the meantime, I took it upon myself to work on our beer’s branding and marketing.
I happened to have some waterproof frog stickers on hand (don’t ask), so I arranged them onto the beer labels and dubbed our beer “Frog Pond IPA”, named after a delightful table tennis variation we developed on Cape Cod with my sister and brother-in-law.
The morning of Beer Day, I placed the bottles in the fridge so that they’d be cold and ready to go the moment Cedric got home from work. We were very excited.
Here’s what happened next:
Cedric got home. He took a Frog Pond IPA out of the fridge. He flipped open the lid, and it exploded. It exploded everywhere – I’ve never seen even champagne explode like this. It had the consistency of shaving cream, and it was spilling onto the floor, spraying onto the walls – just going everywhere.
Once the initial shock wore off, Cedric redirected the foaming mess into the sink.
Our precious beer – gone, almost all of it. To make matters worse, our kitchen now smelled of the stairwell of a fraternity house the day after an epic party.
We had a hunch the second bottle would fare no better than the first, so we took the party to the bathroom.
And we let ‘er go.
A month of hard work – literally, down the drain.
There was still a wee bit of beer left in the bottom of the bottles. Cedric poured himself a glass:
He said it tasted fruity but not very good.
By most standards, this would be an epic failure. But I actually consider it to be somewhat of a success, in that it kept us occupied for two solid nights (at one point, we were excitedly discussing how maybe home brewing could become a regular thing that we do), and the foamy night had me laughing harder than I’ve laughed in awhile.
So what caused the foamonstrosity? Was it our funnel shortcut? Did our pot shortage have something to do with it? Did we fail to sanitize something sufficiently?
I’m not sure. But apparently this guy had the same problem as us (good call on the plastic bag, whoever you are).