“I think this would be a good time for a beer.” – Franklin Roosevelt
upon signing the legislation making April 7th National Beer Day in 1933.
I don’t know about the rest of you dads, but it seems the term “play date,” seems to be an exclusive club to which we’re not often invited. So on this holiest of holy days, National Beer Day, I’m suggesting we have a Brew Date. The idea is simple: Get a bunch of dads together to drink some beers while the kids down their root beers.
Becoming a brewer
I’ve been brewing my own beer since college. I even brewed the beer for my fall wedding in Napa… Oktoberfest of course. Haven’t heard of me or tasted my frosty brew? That’s either because I’m too selfish and drink it faster than I can distribute or, no, that’s the reason.
Anyone who has accidentally left orange juice in the fridge past its expiration knows how easy it is for mother nature to turn sugar into alcohol. But does it taste good? Like the accidental orange hooch, my brewing endeavors have not always been palatable. My very first brew in Reno was a sour brown ale before sour beers were “in.” Sour is what happens when you allow a foreign bacteria or yeast take hold. Today, breweries like Jolly Pumpkin do this on purpose in a very controlled manner and the Belgium monks have been doing it for centuries.
What else can go wrong?
The worst smelling mistake you can make is a simple boil over. This murky, swamp like concoction is wort. It’s the malt, barley, rye, wheat and hops boiled to a certain temperature to ensure the most sugar is extruded from the grains so you can get the most flavor (and alcohol) out of your brew. But if you don’t watch the wort closely, it WILL boil over and that sugary substance will burn onto your stove. The stench will be strong at first and you’ll get a reminder for weeks to come every time you use that burner.
How about making a dirty bomb? (Don’t worry, I didn’t change topics.) That thing coming out of the top of the lid is called an air lock. This one is clogged. Once you’ve boiled the wort, cooled it down and put in the yeast, your beer will begin fermenting furiously for the first 24-48 hours. To keep foreign bacteria and/or another strain of yeast in the ambient air from ruining your beer, you employ a simple airlock. This is filled with a sterile solution that allows the CO2 from the chemical reaction out without letting anything else in. It should be very clean. What does this have to do with a dirty bomb? Well, while my now wife and I were waiting on a short sale home when we first moved to Reno, we were staying with her parents. I had just brewed some beer the day before and was watching TV when I heard a loud BOOM! I had installed my airlock too tight and it had also become clogged. So the CO2 had nowhere to escape. The pressure must have built up for hours before the entire lid blew off. This explosion was on par with school project replicating Mount Saint Helens and winning for its realism. Needless to say, I spent hours cleaning it up.
Back to my Brew Date. The initial brewing process takes about 3-4 hours. Very simplified, this is boiling 5 gallons of water, adding your ingredients, waiting for it to come back to a boil, watching it closely for an hour so it doesn’t boil over, straining it, cooling it, pitching the yeast and putting a lid/airlock on it. Most of that 3-4 hours, can be spent away from the stove interacting with the kids. Now for the bad news – it will take 2-3 weeks for fermentation to be complete and another 1-2 weeks for the carbonation to be complete. So worst case scenario, you have to wait 5 weeks to taste the fruits of your labor. But the best part? You can plan another Brew Date with the boys when it’s ready.
Always near a beer
If you can’t wait 5 weeks for beer, and I don’t blame you. Check out one of the dozens of microbreweries, brewpubs and even distilleries you have in your own backyard. Here’s a handy map that Visit Reno Tahoe put together. And if you can’t take a blogger’s word for it, RGJ has an official article. But remember, drink responsibly!