Friday, November 23, 2012

Brew Day: Hungarian Dark Oak IPA

Todd and I have kind of been initiated into a strange and wonderful circle here in Maine. Todd's dad and his best buddy/partner in crime/brewing compadre, Dwight, are Beer Guys. That's right, with a Capital B and G. Beer is what they do - it's a passion, not just a hobby. They drink it, they read about it, they talk about it, and, of course, they brew it.
Dwight's kids are very much involved in the process, as well, as are many of his and their friends. Quite often, the ranks will assemble at "The Littlefields' Brewhouse" - the breezeway (or 'brewsway'?) of their home, just a few miles from ours - and brew some beer. 
Oh, the fantastic festivities and the fun that follow! (<--- Yep. That. I totally just pulled off that alliteration right there. I get the Blogger of the Year award now, right?)

Ladies and gentlemen, I now present to you... Mr Dwiiiiight Littlefiiiiiield! 
Brewmaster extraordinaire!

Here we go... assembling our ingredients. Everyone brought a different random ingredient so that we could come up with something new to brew out of what we had.

Herb pellets, toasted grass seed, wood chips, and living fungi microorganisms! Makes your mouth water, doesn't it?

Baby C is concerned.

I'm quite certain that Heaven smells like Summit Hops. Or Heaven's local brewpub does, at any rate.

It's actually brewer's yeast. Not a condom.

Also, please disregard the Toe Thumb. I've told it to stay the heck out of my photographs but the darn thing just keeps popping in there. I'll have another talk with it.

 We decided to name our creation 'Hungarian Dark Oak IPA', at least in its initial stages. Sounds like win and mystery, doesn't it? Win and mystery... in a forest? Full of hops? And Eastern Europeans? ...Dancing?

Battle stations, everyone! 
Let the brewing begin!

Even more crucial to the brewing process than skillfully manned battle stations:
Crunchy Salty Brew Day Snacks!

 Don't worry, we have fruit, too. The presence of fruit automatically makes all of the other food Healthy. Everyone knows that. Gosh, you act like we aren't responsible adults or something. 
Calm down.

This process here is called "sparging the grains", where you rinse every last drop of goodness out of the boiled malted barley. Here in Maine, though, we call it "spaaaaahging". 
If you don't call it "spaaaaahging", with exactly five very flat As, we will kick you out. Fact.

It's five o'clock somewhere! 

 And now, King of the Crunchy Salty Brew Day Snacks, and Special Magical Guest Star of Brew Day:

Cheese Balls.

When you start to regain feeling in your tongue, you know it's time to eat more.

Alyssa: "Max, can you say, "Tastes like America"?"
Max: "...Mmm! Taste wike 'Maywca!"

That's my boy. A child of Liberty!

Ginni: "Wowww! Cheese Balls!" 
Catherine: "Are those cheese balls that I see!!??
Oh man. Things just got real."

 "Ooh! Cheesy, tongue-numbing goodness!"
(Just kidding. She didn't really eat any cheese balls. 
But she WISHES she did. I'm sure they turned my breast milk neon orange,
anyway, so she got her share, don't worry.)

 Barbecue sauce, anyone?
Wait, no, just kidding. It's malt extract. And it tastes deliiiicious. 
Like biscuity molasses, kind of.
I'm not actually sure that you're supposed to just eat it, but... what was I supposed to do, wipe my finger on a napkin?? 

Beer = science! And half empty pint glasses!

 The Brewmaster at work.

Mmm... the otherworldly scent of wort... why don't they make candles and air fresheners that smell like this???
Think what fresh bread baking smells like, but x100. And with the sweet promise of alcohol.
By the way, if you don't live in Maine, that word is pronounced like 'wert'.
If you live in Maine, however, it is pronounced in a way that is indescribable but something along the lines of 'whuuurht'.

 It's a steamy business, making beer!

Jim Nichols, Resident Hopsniffer.
I am his apprentice. 

In case you're wondering why I am so obsessed with the smell of beermaking:
I only learned how to smell in 2008 (don't worry, you'll get a whole post about that someday), so I am particularly taken by olfactory wonders. And brewing, dear friends, is one such wonder. 

 By the way - the Mystery Ingredient that one of our brewers picked out turned out to be 'Medium Toast Hungarian Oak Shavings'. Hmm!

Of course I had to taste one. 

Want to know what Medium Toast Hungarian Oak Shavings taste like?

Nothing. Literally nothing.
 If it weren't for the horrible, disintegrating, um-there-is-definitely-a-piece-of-mildly-burnt-tree-in-my-mouth-right-now texture, you might not know that they were in your mouth at all. I'm assuming that the flavoring impact they will have on the beer itself is more subtle and requires a bit of soaking. We will find out in a month or two.

I only eat wood in the name of science, I tell you!

Bag o' wood chips.

Dwight is VERY proud of the fact that he tied the knot without touching any of the bag with his bare hands - since it is going directly into the fermenting beer, it can't have any bacteria on it that could give the final product any off flavors. Note that he's holding it with a paper towel.
I suggested sterile gloves - this man is a nurse in his other life - but he wanted to show off his skills, I think. I was indeed impressed!

Why yes, those hop bags DO look remarkably like old socks, don't they!

 But don't worry. As you can see here, they are just made of innocent, ungross, very stretchy gauze material. Just because we put tree shavings and live fungi into our beer doesn't mean we add discarded foot garments, people. I mean come on. Have a little faith.

Cheese balls...


Alright, time to get things a fermentin'! 

Ooh! Ooh! Let's play that game where you make up a caption for the picture:

1. "I love my husband, but he is really terrible at Hide and Seek."

2. "Aha! I've got you now, Giant Fly! Prepare to meet your doom!"

3. "The window in this submarine really could use some cleaning."

4. "Help! My head is trapped in a giant mesh bubble!"

5. "_______________________________________________________"

The wort goes into the fermenter through the strainer so we don't end up drinking hop pulp.
Because that would be gross. 
Hop juice, on the other hand, is magnificent.
...It's a fine line in this business, what is gross and what isn't...

 Topping 'er off

In go a few small pieces of the Hungarian forest...

 Aaaand... last but not least, pitching the yeast! (<--Oh man, and a CATCHY RHYME! Forget Blogger of the Year. I should be Blogger of the DECADE. Talent.)

 Alright, little yeasty beasties, time to get BUSY! 
Enjoy a mad round of gluttony before you end up eating everything and dying of starvation. Oh yeah, and we are going to drink your excrement. Thanks for that. Sorry about the dying business.

(Don't worry, the yeasts' bodily wastes are okay. Remember the part where there is a fine line of grossness? We're good still. Yeast excrement is just alcohol and bubbles, yo. We like both.)

! ...Oh man, forget Blogger of the Decade... I just thought of a limerick. And limericks automatically qualify one for Blogger of the Frigging Century! Here you go:

    And finally - last, but not least -
Came the time for the pitching of yeast.
The fungi were thrilled - 
"So much food! We'll be filled!"
...They knew not of their sad fate post-feast.

...You're welcome.

 Alright! Time to check the specific gravity of our delicious concoction before we tuck it in to bed for two weeks or so. The specific gravity tells us about how much alcohol we'll be looking at when things are all said and done.

The longer you stare at the Bobbing Gravity Measurer Stick Thing (yes, that's its official name) to gauge the final number, the more professional you are. 
Wes is very professional.

Put the lid on, screw it in place, and you're done! For awhile, anyway.

Cheerio, little beer, old chum! See you in a proper fortnight! Wot wot! 

(That's a British accent, by the way, not a Maine accent. That was just for fun.)
(But Maine accents are NEVER just for fun. Maine accents are SERIOUS BUSINESS.)

In a couple of weeks, we will return and decant our lovely loveliness into another container for secondary fermentation. After that, bottling... and not too long after that, drinking! And angel choruses! And rainbows! And fairies! And dancing Hungarians!

It's going to be magical.


...Don't judge me?

...P.S. Quick! Make up a caption for the Make Up a Caption Game in the comments section! GO!

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