Yesterday, I got up a little after six in the morning in preparation for what I entitled Beer Day. Back on Father’s Day, Ann bought me some equipment that I needed in order to brew my own beer without borrowing others’ stuff (except a coil chiller — I need a coil chiller), and also bought me tickets for the Brew Bus — more on that later.
At 6:45, my friend Jonathan arrived to brew with me. I have other friends who have brewed before (Paul or Chris, if you happen to read this, I needed to get at least one or two more brew sessions under my belt before joining forces with you; you two know too much and I don’t always learn well from the experts), but Jonathan was brand new to the process and I was on my second try. (My first one, which I called Strange’s Barrel Roll Porter, was pretty good.)
We had to start with a brief side trip — my new turkey frier setup that I could use for a brew pot needed a new propane tank and batteries in its igniter — but we were pretty well ready to go by the time I wanted to start.
It was a learning process; for example, it took several minutes to learn how to get the burner to light and to stay lit. I thought I remembered, from the first time I brewed, that Ann suggested keeping the flames from “licking up the sides” of the pot — but after nearly an hour of heating the water, we weren’t anywhere near the temperature we needed, so I cranked it up. The side of the pot is a bit blackened now, but we did see that it would come off with a little bit of effort, so I’m not too worried.
I used a Brewer’s Best kit, which tends to be pretty foolproof thanks to its instructions, because I’m still very new at this. My hope is to eventually get to the point where I’m specifically selecting grains, malt, and hops (maybe even yeast?) but for now I’m definitely sticking with kits.
We added the grains (mostly caremel, some chocolate), and immediately the area started to smell just wonderful. After the appropriate amount of time steeping the grains, we pulled out the bag and let it drain. Out of curiosity, we then squeezed some liquid from the sachet into a coffee cup and tried it. I expected it to be kind of nasty, but it actually tasted a little like coffee and a little like tea. Not bad.
Next, we added the liquid malt extract. It smelled exactly like malted milk balls do when you open the package. It was thicker and sweeter than honey — almost like malt-scented molasses.
Once we were ready for the hops, we experienced our first minor issue — the wort (pre-beer, rhymes with Bert), which filled less than half the pot, suddenly boiled up and over the lid. We subdued it pretty quickly, but we had to scrape some of the hops back down into the mixture, and I’m sure I lost some hops during the process. We boiled for 55 minutes with the first round (bittering hops), and then for 5 minutes with the second round (aroma hops); both were basic Willamette hops.
After chilling the wort with the one piece of borrowed equipment, we transferred it to the fermenter, capped it, put in an airlock, and closed it away in the dark.
We then hopped in the car and drove downtown, where we were picked up by the Indy Brew Bus.
The Brew Bus, which is a bright lime green, carries as many as 14 passengers to multiple breweries, where you can sample beers and buy growlersful if you want. I brought three empty growlers with me. (The beer also has coolers to keep your growlers cold, and bottles of water.)
Our first stop was Flat 12. I’ve had several of their beers, but I had never been there before. When I saw how many of us there were in the tasting room, and how many people were serving up tastes (two), I was sure it was going to take a long time to taste all the beers I wanted to.
I was wrong. They kept coming, fast and furious, until I actually had several stacked up waiting to go. I think I had at least ten small samples while I was there, including the hoppiest beer I have ever tasted in my life. With over 104 IBU’s (International Bittering Units), the only real flavor was hops. I imagine it would be wonderful with a bowl of spicy curry or wasabi tuna, but even then I doubt I could drink more than a pint of it. (Two breweries later, I still tasted it if I burped.)
The next brewery was Bier Brewery. We had about eight samples there, and I bought a growler of their Autumn Marzen (which is their Oktoberfest). When we were done there, our driver (who called himself “Brew Bus Bob,” but I wish he enunciated better because I heard “Blue Balls Bob”) told us that due to the traffic and construction that had re-routed us pretty severely on our way to Bier, we had a choice: one more brewery with a decent amount of time, or two more breweries with a very short visit to each. He also told us that one of the two remaining breweries was “a bit stingy” with their samples (none for free; 6 for $5). We unanimously decided to just hit the non-stingy brewery.
That was Sun King. Sun King has been my favorite local brewery for quite some time; their Wee Mac ranks as one of my five favorite beers. I’d never had a beer from them that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy.
Well, that streak’s over now.
We had five samples available to us, including their regulars (Wee Mac, Osiris Pale Ale, and their Cream Ale), and two specialties: El Gallo Negro, and Montezuma’s Revenge. El Gallo Negro is a black IPA; their advertising for it said it should have the smooth mouth feel of a porter, the flavor profile of a stout, and the hoppiness of an IPA. They were completely right; I bought a growler of that as well. Montezuma’s Revenge was a chili-infused beer (possibly a cream ale? I honestly don’t remember).
It tasted like soap at the front of my mouth, nothing at all (just foamy) at the back of my mouth, and it burned in my throat like I had swallowed sandpaper or small glass shards.
It was, without a doubt, one of the three most unpleasant beers I have ever tasted, and the only one of the three that was actively painful.
Employees there agreed that most people hated it, but said that they had found some success in cooking with it. I can believe it, but I can’t imagine wanting to do it.
We returned to my house where Jonathan’s wife and kids joined us for a meal of kebabs, killer mac and cheese (seriously one of the best I’ve had), and butterscotch pie for dessert. Perhaps not surprisingly, we chose not to drink beer with dinner.
I’m planning to go back to Flat 12 to fill my third growler. Fortunately, I kept notes on everything I sampled, so I can make sure to get one I liked when I return.
All in all, not a bad way to spend a Saturday. Beer Day may become an annual event!