Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gerasimus the Trucker Tripel: DIY beer brewing

My dear mother always told me that once her girls grew up she wanted them to have accomplished two things:
1. get through college and find a career to support yourself; and
2.  learn how to drive stick so that we could drive a truck to save our life.
#1 makes good sense to me but #2 has always been a head scratcher. Why a truck? Why could that save my life? You can ask Mer next time you see her because I've never gotten a legitimate hypothetical for when that could come to pass. Moral of the story is my mom was always a DIY'er and wanted her girls to take on in similar fashion. When we couldn't afford big fancy birthday parties at Discovery Zone, my mom would create elaborate homemade forts, with the perfect-almost-store-bought-looking Barbie skirted birthday cake. She sewed all her own clothes up through college and to this day has some knitting project in a brown wicker basket at the foot of her bed ready to pick up and work on when she has a few spare hours.

Her daughters' apples haven't fallen far from the tree. B is an avid knitter, felter (one who felts, you know) and sewer (my birthday request was homemade handkerchiefs) while K had some bouts with pottery, weaving and knitting and has settled on quilting. Everyone makes new babies in the family clothing, blankets and toys. And then there's Aunty JoJo. Yes, she'll make zuc-choco bread for kiddos when they're in town, but presents in the mail come from Amazon and housewarming gifts usually come in the form of a 750 mL bottle.I'm working on that.

Christmas 2009 I launched my accommodating boyfriend in his own DIY direction. Damon got a full homebrewer kit and for your perusal, below are his experiments, thus far:
Freckled Nose IPA... Double IPA
E-I-Ale... American IPA
Baba's Rice Pudding Stout... Stout
Pinballhead Wizard American Wheat
Skeletor Stout
Ole Chipotle Ale
I've always played brewers assistant, helping stir the boiling 5 gallon pot of wort, hold feed lines, and cap bottles one they've been filled with our fragrant brew. Out of 37 Saturdays spent working on some part of the brewing process, my guess is on at least 20 Damon's apartment reeked of hops.

Last month's trip to Brew & Grow to pick up a seed start kit tempted me to take the reins and play head brewer, just this once. I picked up a Belgian Tripel kit and kicked off the process four weeks ago. The Tripel is a widely popular Trappist brew. Brewer law says I can't name my beer "Monk" or "Trappist" anything because Damon's place isn't technically a monastery (though by the amount of beer that's brewed in it one could argue that it could qualify as such). So my extra malty, big headed, creamy, sweet brew will be called Gerasimus the Trucker Tripel. Gerasimus is the Patron saint of Kefalonia who always has his eye over Damon's apartment and the Trucker bit is a simple nod to the random skill that could get me out of a bind someday.

The whole brewing process takes about 4 weeks until the beer is just barely ready and goes something like this: boil wort (grains as pictured above with water) and add malt, hops, sugar and yeast. Let that whole deal sit for a week, then transfer it to a fresh carboy (as pictured above) after one week, leaving the sediment that's collected in the bottom of the old one. Then after a week more of bubbling, bottle and sit for another week. Then we pop a bottle in the fridge and after two days, pour it out into a clean lovely piece of stemware.

I'll be enjoying these brews, all 42 of them, for up to year as it improves with a bit of age. While I probably won't be sending my new niece a 6 pack for her 1 year old birthday, I like the idea of little food gifts that I can preserve, put up and dish out through the year. Plus with this new subscription on my coffee table, I'm thinking my next beverage challenge will be a syrup, liqueur, or some such thing. Ahh the DIY adventures to be had. Despite my projects being slightly different than those of my sisters, I think my mom would be proud.  I've checked #1 and #2 off the list and am off to find my own sort of creative home activities: non-traditional, non-Michael's/Joann Fabrics-based, not super kid friendly but me. They're appropriate to who I am and where I am at right at this moment. Barbie cakes and knitted sweaters I'll save for another day.