A Horrifying Homebrew – Part I

For the longest time, I didn’t have a lot of interest in homebrewing, despite the fact a large number of my friends homebrew. And, as I make more friends who are into beer, that proportion is going up.

At some point long ago, my friend Rob (of the attractive cuff) shared with me a link for a peach-blueberry lager and asked if I wanted to brew that with him. I, frankly, am ALL OVER peaches and blueberries and beer, so the answer was an instant and immediate yes. We had to modify the plan a bit, but we ended up with a shared 10 gallons of peach beer, blueberry beer and peach-blueberry blended beer. They were pretty darn tasty, but 5 gallons of beer is a great deal of beer for one beer drinker. I gave a lot of it away.

Apparently, that’s normal in homebrewing. Still, the thought of having to make beer mostly to give away if I wanted to engage in the hobby put me off. I decided that I’d probably keep helping Rob homebrew, maybe also my friend Theresa, but generally I’d buy my beer or be gifted it from homebrewing friends, and generally that’d be good.

Enter Angelique’s husband, Marty. They visited us while they were on the way to a wedding near us sometime in the summer of 2012, and Marty noticed I had a glass gallon jug and commented that it’d be perfect for small scale homebrewing.

I’d never considered the possibility that brewing on a one gallon scale was possible. A seed was planted. By the time Marty came out to join me for FoBAB in November 2012, I was definitely interested in trying it. So he brought out some malted grains1 I could use and took me shopping at a homebrew store for a bit of equipment and helped me brew a batch. Basically, he helped me out in the same way I normally help Rob out, but with more advice. So this ended up being the first batch I was incredibly hands-on with.

It was fun, and kind of exciting. Bill laughed at me as I checked on my little jug daily. He laughed at me as I realized I didn’t know quite when, or how, to bottle it. He teased me when the beer sat on the yeast for awhile longer than it needed to as I figured it out. And he laughed and helped when Kristi came over to help me bottle my little gallon.

I was supposed to try it no sooner than two weeks later. I didn’t get to it right away. By the time I remembered it, Bill and I were so close to going out to Marty and Angelique’s area, that I figured I’d just take two bottles and we all could try it then.

Let me tell you what; your heart never sinks so fast when your best beer buddy cracks into your homebrew, gets the first taste, says, “Huh” and passes it to you with no other commentary.

I mean, until you sniff it and it smells odd and you take one taste of it, gag, and say, “Oh, fuck that beer.” I mean, I knew it wasn’t good when Marty’s only commentary was “huh”, but I had no concept of how bad it was going to be.

Folks, it tasted like vomit. Flat-out, no other description will do. I had made vomit-flavored beer2. And that’s just as gross as you’re imagining.

We puzzled over it, and eventually concluded the flavor had to be from some sort of bacterial infection of the beer. Marty says he’s never had infected beer, and certainly never tasted anything like that, so he was at a bit of a loss. But, really, for something that nasty, that had to be the only choice, right?

Well, I’d given a bottle to Rob. Upon returning home, I sent him a message apologizing for sending in vile beer. He mentioned that he’d only tried it the night before, and that was his thought too. Vile. However, when I mentioned we all thought it was an infection, he said, “Doesn’t taste like it.” He didn’t have any other ideas, though. Or if he did, he didn’t share.

The off-flavors class I took covered “infection” as well. And, tell you what, Rob was right. What I tasted there as “infection” was in no way, shape or form what I tasted in my beer.

So what the hell happened?

This entry was getting pretty long, so I split it into two parts. Come back on Friday for the answer. If you’re in Chicago, or planning to visit, and interested in homebrewing, you’ll really want to come back on Friday. Trust me.

fn1. He brought the grains so I wouldn’t have to buy 5 gallon sized amounts and have malt extract sitting around.

fn2. And now I’m telling the world about it… Huh…

2 thoughts on “A Horrifying Homebrew – Part I

  1. THE SUSPENSE!!!!!!!!

    (I wish I had known about this before last night, I would have asked for the story!)

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