Thursday, January 9, 2020

99 Batches of Beer on the Wall

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I started actively homebrewing beer in August 2015. Now, 4 ½ years later, I’ve just put my 100th batch into the fermenter. It’s a nice milestone at the start of a new year.

Pardon me while I reminisce.

Ah, the summer of 2015. Jane and I had somewhat recently welcomed our third little bundle of joy into the world. As such, we were horribly sleep deprived and over-stressed. Good times. For a number of years, one of my main hobbies had been playing a computer game which allowed me to just relax, slip into a different world, and enjoy smiting whatever evil monsters got in my way. But suddenly I was losing interest in that game. Between losing that joy, the stresses of parenting (including two older children who were delightfully determined not to stay in bed for the night), and a few other issues going on in our lives, I was thoroughly overwhelmed and started slipping into depression.

Looking for a little relief, I started seeking out a new hobby. I needed something that would be creative. I needed something I would enjoy. I needed something that would be flexible enough that I could still attempt to be a vaguely competent husband and father. We’d brewed a few batches of wine and beer kits over the years. That was fun enough, but it wasn’t really creative. Dump the concentrate, mix it up, add the yeast, wait, bottle, wait, done. And at the end I had to face about 20L of exactly the same beer or wine. It was too much of a good thing.

That was when Fr Darryl gave us a copy of his friend Sarah Vabulas’ fabulous book: The Catholic Drinkie’s Guide to Homebrewed Evangelism. It introduced me to the world of beer recipes. It introduced me to smaller batches of beer. It gave me hope.

In September I eagerly tried to make up a simple recipe for a very small batch of a very simple beer. I brewed it. I fermented it. I bottled it. I waited. I tasted it. It was absolutely disgusting and I dumped it every last drop down the drain. Kind of discouraging, but I kept brewing with some basic beer kits until I felt confident to try again.

Then November rolled around. Thinking maybe it would be better to learn from someone with experience, I took one of the recipes from Sarah’s book and used that. It was more complicated, starting with plain malted barley rather than a can of extract. I brewed it and left it to ferment. When bottling day came around there was a little bit left over, so I had a taste. It was beautiful! So beautiful! I had no idea beer could taste this good! It actually brought a tear to my eye. It was a complete and utter success. And again, I had hope – hope that I’d found a good hobby, hope that I might stop spiraling into depression, hope that I could live again.

So, thank you, Sarah, for your book that brought me hope. Thank you, Darryl, for passing it on, whether you knew I needed it or not. Thank you, Jane, for enduring all the beers you’ve had to taste with me. And thank you, Lord, for bringing me new life through these fine people.

Read 244 times Last modified on Thursday, January 9, 2020