So I could start at the beginning and tell you all the stories about brewing in the garage and how I learned about brewing from Blake, but that stuff is boring and what you really want to hear about is brewing mishaps because, let’s be honest, we all like to laugh at people epically failing. With that in mind, I am going to tell you about my first experience brewing, by myself, on our homebrew system, in the Garden.
The boys and I have brewed together hundreds of times and I know the routine backwards and forwards. We have a goal, since we moved into the Garden, to brew three times a week, so when the boys planned to take off for the weekend with only two brews completed, I decided this would be my time to shine. To be honest, I was surprised Blake agreed to the whole thing, he’s a little...particular about his brew equipment. But, Blake said yes, we worked out a recipe, ordered the grains, and before I knew it I was standing by myself in front our set-up thinking, I won’t be able to lift the kettle when it’s full.
Now, every set-up is different and with ours, the kettle needs to be moved across the building to be closer to the drain so when we use our chiller (named Chill Clinton), we can drain the run-off water. So, there I am, staring at the kettle, watching my brewing debut dreams fade away and as if by some miracle, my phone rings and my cousin asks what I’m up to. I explained the situation and she offered to help. Now, the general process of brewing is not hard to understand but the nuances of the procedure make it an art form. My cousin, as wonderful as she is, has no experience doing anything brew related and, based on what ensued that day, will most likely never attempt to learn the art of brewing.
At first, things were amazing; my timing was perfect, my gravity dead on, even the playlist I selected was outstanding. Then the boil was done. As we moved the kettle over to the drain, I rehearsed in my head my victory speech to the boys, gracefully letting Blake know that I would now be the Head Brewer given my one, completely flawless brew. We hooked up Chill Clinton, opened the valve on the kettle, and I turned on the pump on the chiller. It was about this time that I realized I didn’t have a carboy.
From there, things kind of became a blur. I turned off the pump, thrust the tubing, now gushing wort, at my cousin and told her to hold it as I bounded up the stairs to get the carboy. As I approached the stairs my cousin shouted behind me, “it keeps coming out, Kirsten, what do I do.” I yelled back to lift the hose up, or put it in the kettle, trailing off as I made my way to the top of the stairs. Now the carboy was soaking in the sink upstairs and when I went to tip it over to drain it out, it slipped from my hands and managed to knock over and break a number of items on the counter. I wrangled the carboy out of the sink and rinsed it out, while also soaking myself head to toe in a mixture of caustic solution and scalding hot tap water. I hugged the carboy to my chest and leapt down the stairs. And there it was, half a kettle worth of wort, pooling on the floor around the drain, my cousin sitting with the hose pointing into an overflowing jug sitting on the ground. Holding back a sob, I grabbed the tubing, turned on the pump and the water and salvaged what I could of my debut brew.
After my cousin and I had a good laugh about the whole situation, she left the Garden, smelling like…well, a brewery. Feeling deflated, I pitched the yeast in my half-a-beer, sat down and reflected on what exactly had gone wrong.
The boys think it’s hilarious that I failed so hard and I doubt I will ever live it down. When I told Blake the story, he looked at me with a mix of sympathy and amusement and simply asked “why didn’t you just turn off the valve?” As I mentioned, brewing is an art and while I haven’t given up on my ambition of being able to brew on my own, I think for now, I will stick to marketing.