Homebrew

This winter we finally got around to brewing our own beer. A bunch of our pals have been at it for a while and we had long been intrigued by their tales of the process. I don’t want to give away the ending of our experiment here in paragraph one, but suffice it to say, we will surely be brewing again before the month’s over.

Ok, so first things first.  Most of the equipment we used came from a brew kit.  (This one, to be exact. Thanks Mom!) A brew kit is pretty great because, as kits are known to do, it provides you with all of the supplies and tools you will need to brew successfully.  The big ticket items are the glass carboy (used to hold the beer during the fermentation process) and the secondary fermenter contatiner (basically a big bucket with a nozzle for bottling). We had to make a few additional purchases in addition to the brew kit, but the add-ons were minimal: bottle caps, high pressure nozzle for cleaning out bottles, and a large pot for boiling the ingredients. We also referred to a copy of The Complete Joy of Home Brewing, which provides a lot of great information and instruction. I definitely recommend this book to first-time brewers because, in addition to directions, it provides an excellent summary of the science behind fermentation, which we both found extremely intriguing. For instance, it provided Heath with the clarity and confidence to proclaim that “alcohol is basically yeast poop” so you know it’s a good read.

joy of home brewingOnce we did a quick survey of our inventory and concluded that we did in fact have the necessary tools to become brew masters, we set off for Austin Homebrew Supply to get the ingredients for creating our first batch. Shelf after shelf was stocked with plastic containers labeled as “malt extract” and other unfamiliar head-scratchers.  It was a little intimidating at first glance, but the knowledgeable yet laid back staff set our minds at ease. Essentially the way it works you flip through a book with hundreds of recipes and let the cashier know which recipe you’ve chosen to try your hand at.  They were great about telling us which recipes were easy, which ones were more difficult and what other folks had said about their experiences with that particular brew. We walked away with the materials for a peach hefeweizen, not a traditional choice, but one we were nonetheless excited to try.

Once we were back at home we immediately got going.  For your viewing pleasure, I’ve created the following step-by-step guide for other brewing novices.

brewinstructions

Last weekend we had our first sip of our trial batch. And all I have to say is a satisfied “ahhh.” Our first sampling came before the beer was completely carbonated, but it was still a glorious moment to take that first drink and discover that we aren’t incompetent DIY brewers. Yes! This actually tastes like beer! It actually tastes like good beer! One week later, the brews are nice and carbonated.  The bottles make that exciting “ssssck” sound when you first remove the cap and the beer foams and bubbles slightly when when you pour it into the pint glass. Such joy we’ve derived from just that moment and the drinking hasn’t even started.

In summation, the process was fairly easy, though it does require attention to detail and a lot of patience.  But, like any cook or brewer, I love the science behind the process and the satisfied feeling we have when sharing it with friends.  I’m giddy thinking about what creations we might turn out next.  An IPA, a stout, a pilsner?  The sky is the limit. Doodle house? More like Brewdoole house!

peach hefeweizen


Wine Not?

I enjoy wine. Scratch that. Wine is the drink I enjoy above all other drinks. Perhaps because it is diverse and can take on so many remarkable forms–thus is capable of suiting my every mood. Sweet. Dry. Fruity. Crisp. Acidic. Buttery. I could go on and on.  I love how it tastes, how it feels, how it smells. Bottled or boxed, I’ll take. It also doesn’t hurt that it has a reputation for being somewhat healthy too, so I can feel OK about indulging in the occasional glass or two (or three).

The problem, if you want to call it that, is that until recently I wasn’t really discriminating between types. I was acting like a floozy, not being particularly picky about my suitors. I was just happy to have a date.

Heath, trickster that he is, took it upon himself to change that by organizing a surprise Blind Wine Taste Test. What fun! Home he came with six mystery bottles (4 reds and 2 whites) for me to sample, identify and evaluate. I knew I liked that guy.

The wine contestants

The purpose of the test was for me to see not only if I could identify which wines were which from taste alone, but also to see what type of wine I truly enjoy the most. I’ve been to vineyards and done the whole wine tasting thing before, but doing it blind made for an ironically eye-opening experience.

It was stimulating to see if I could detect the hints of berry, chocolate, nuts etc. the labels claim lie within. And I enjoyed getting to have an honest discussion about which glasses worked for me and which didn’t, without being influenced by my atmosphere, the wine’s cost, or my previous notions of what I did and didn’t like. For example, I always thought myself a red girl, but I was blown away both by how much I enjoyed a glass of crisp Pinot Grigio and how much I winced after a sip of Merlot.

I won’t be going into the wine tasting business professionally, as I don’t think I really have the chops or buds sensitive enough to handle the job; but the wine taste test was a super sweet and thoughtful surprise that helped me learn a little about myself and little more about my favorite hobby. Perhaps next week. A cheese taste test is in order.

Cheers!


La Luna De Miel…La Secuela

Every year on their wedding anniversary, my parents take a trip together. Sometimes it’s to the mountains and sometimes it’s to the beach, sometimes to a rural cabin in the wilderness and sometimes to a major city with thousands of things to do and see… but no matter the destination they make a point to run off somewhere together and celebrate the fact that they made it through another year of marital bliss.

I like this idea.

So following in their footsteps, Heath and I made a pact to take a regular anniversary trip of our own…a recurring honeymoon. Last year it was to San Francisco, but this year we opted to get a bit more adventurous and take a trip outside the country. Last night we clicked the “purchase” button for two tickets to Mexico City!

It might not be one of the first cities that comes to mind when you think “romantic getaway,” but as two kids who dorked out over stories of the Aztec pyramids and love eating tacos on the street…it’s sort of the perfect destination. Plus we will be rendezvousing with a dear friend and Mexico native upon arrival who can show us the town and help us do Mexico City like royalty.

Photo Courtesy National Geographic

Photo Courtesy National Geographic

Photo Courtesy New York Times

Photo Courtesy New York Times

Photo Courtesy New York Times

Photo Courtesy New York Times

Photo Courtesy New York Times

Viva Mexico!