Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Brew Day Crazies

Don't get me wrong. Brewing is a good time. But there are also moments in the process that can be anxiety-provoking.

Take, for example, the time between the end of the boil and the sealing of the fermenter. Boiling protects the beer from all kinds of nasties that can find its way into--and screw up--your beer. (Well, except for hair. Even boiled, sanitary hair in your beer bottle would be all kinds of gross upon discovery.) Once that boil is done, beer is defenseless against bacteria, wild (unwanted) yeasts, and other such undesirables. I never really breathe much once the heat is off, not until the fermenter lid is firmly in place and I can sit back and wait for the liquid (rum, actually) in that air lock to start doing its burbling thing. Once that lid is locked down tight, only then can I take a big, sweet, relaxed breath.

But until then, I worry about a lot of things.

Such as any and all of the following: 
  • Is my water too hot too early?
  • Is everything that's going to touch my beer in its vulnerable state all squeaky clean and sanitized? 
  • Have I checked for the 100th time that the yeast smack-pack is expanding like it should?
  • Do I smell chlorine in that water?
  • Is it time to add the bittering hops? Now? Now? Now?
  • How much liquid have I lost because I have to test the sugar levels in the unfermented beer (and that wastes some, don't you know)?
  • Oh, hell...the open fermenter is sitting on the floor and we're standing over it...whatever you do, Don't Sneeze!
  • Am I having an aneurysm?
And so on....

But brewing with a partner, while chock-full-o-benefits, can present some interesting new challenges in the Nervous Nelly department. 

Because a partner can think of things to worry about that you never even dreamed of. 

Seriously, the concern that something may explode during a brew session never entered my mind. Until last weekend. But apparently, no fewer than fifteen different things involved in the brewing process have the potential to detonate.

Says Michael. In fact, he said it a lot.

And no amount of "Honey, it's never done that before," or "I swear there is no pyrotechnics segment in the brew schedule, not even in the fine print," or "You know you're crazy, right?" would satisfy him. 

'Cause he's a guy who understands physics, y'all. 

I guess that's what can happen when you brew with an engineer. You can end up with six hours of regular reassurance that something in that kitchen is going to prove (or violate) some physical law. (And it's probably gonna be messy to boot.) 

So, after hearing such gloom/doom repeatedly prophesied, you can't help but wonder, "Could that [insert practically anything here] really explode?" And, "How have I avoided such a catastrophe before?"

The good news is nothing ever did explode. (Although the smoke detector did go off. First sign of the apocalypse, I'm sure.)

Last weekend's concerns regarding the Sodom and Gomorrah-like decimation of our kitchen notwithstanding, we generally seem to offset each other's anxieties on brew day. So, it's all good in the end. And pretty funny in the interim.

Plus, since he's the guy who gets "the physics," he's also the guy who gets the math formulas and the Excel calculations. (Yes, Virginia, brewing can involve math and spreadsheet applications.) So, this former English major is extremely grateful for the hard-science brain power.

And the company.

Even if that company is no less crazy than I am. But I'm guessing that's one of the things that makes it all the more fun.


  1. It's a good thing you're not cooking meth. Imagine the questions THAT would bring!!!

  2. Good point. Nope. I can't let Michael watch scary movies, and now I know I can't let him cook up meth either. I find all that kinda limiting, frankly. :)