My old college pal Dale Einarson said it best: “If I can make something that tastes at least as good as Lucky Lager for less than it costs to buy Lucky Lager, I’ve come out on top.”
Empowered by Einarson’s thought-provoking words and disenchanted by the cost of B.C. brew, I thought I would take matters into my own hands. I was going to make my own beer.
After moving into a new space with the perfect brewery corner, which has now become most of our kitchen, it was time. As a mere happenstance, I stumbled upon a one-gallon (roughly four-litre) kit at Chapters in Kamloops.
Brooklyn Brewshop’s kit isn’t your grandad’s malt extract homebrew, though. This is serious business.
Giddy like a school-girl on the morning of the Spring Fling dance, I drove home and unboxed the kit only to find that I still needed more gear. To be specific, I needed a much larger brewing pot.
When brew day hit that weekend, I woke up earlier than I have ever gotten up before and with more gusto than an Olympic athlete.
Brew pots, a fermenting jar, a funnel, a strainer, an airlock, a blow-off tube, a bowl of sanitizer solution and various bits and bobs lined our countertop.
“Brewing is 90 per cent cleaning.”
Einarson’s less-enticing brew talk floated through my mind as I was elbow-deep in suds for what seemed like hours to prepare everything. They don’t tell you that in the brochure.
Everything became cleaner and cleaner as I became dirtier and dirtier. But, finally, it was time to brew.
Full disclosure, I am an awful cook, burn-your-toast and drown-your-macaroni-in-milk awful. So, when the instructions said, if you can cook, you can brew, something was bound to go wrong.
To my surprise, however, mashing was easier than anticipated. Mashing is the process of converting the malt’s starches to sugar. By applying consistent heat, between 60-65 C, naturally occurring enzymes come to life to complete this process, which is more or less like making oatmeal.
If you’ve ever walked into a brewery and been bombarded by a beautiful, meaty and earthy scent, that’s mashing.
Next, hot water is poured over the mash — think brewing a pot of coffee — and collected in a secondary pot. This liquid is called the wort. The name sounds gross, but congratulations: that’s beer.
The wort is then heated and flavouring additives, like hops, are added at various intervals. After a quick ice bath in the kitchen sink, the liquid is transferred to the fermenting jug where it will sit pretty for a few weeks before it’s time to bottle.
That’s the basic idea behind all-grain home brewing.
However, what should have been a walk in the park turned into a day-long ordeal. First, my mash wouldn’t get hot enough without burning. Second, my wort wouldn’t maintain its heat. And third, well, I was busy watching Brooklyn 99 and forgot to monitor everything as closely as I should have, hence the aforementioned issues.
Essentially, everything that could have gone wrong did. And, when I opened the first bottle of my golden-pride last week, I dumped it down the drain.
Unlike Einarson’s, my brew was neither cheaper nor better than Lucky Lager. Perhaps the next batch will be, but this one certainly wasn’t.
In the meantime, it looks like I have some flat yellow liquid to drink.