I will admit, I hadn’t brewed in many, many years. In fact, the last time I brewed was in college and those days are still a bit hazy. It was a kit we’d picked up on one of our many off campus runs, and a couple of us thought, “how hard could this be?” What I do remember was we most definitely were not supposed to be doing that in the dorm, that it did not turn out good, and we drank it anyway because… beer. My interest in brewing was sparked, but I was of the mindset that I could buy whatever I wanted when I wanted at the store. Why spend the time brewing it? Then life started- marriage, job, kids, moving, job, work and more work. I took on a job that left me with little time to myself or my family so even the thought of going back into brewing was a distant and faint memory.
Then, back in October of 2013, when we first started toying with MFS, I was asked by many of the people we met, “Do you brew?” and “Are you going to sell your own beers?” This is a big question (not only permit and legally speaking, but what you’ll need for equipment, space, and so forth) and we have a plan- which I’ll address some other time. I decided I wanted to get back into brewing but I didn’t want to go all out right away. Ease into the pool, so to speak. I wanted to start simple- maybe mess up a gallon or so, that way I wouldn’t feel quite as bad throwing it out if completely botched it up.
That’s when I found Nashville Brew Post. One gallon kits that I could brew in my house using pots I already owned- minimal investment for my uncertainty. I placed my order and eagerly awaited my first kit to arrive- a pumpkin ale. Now, I have to be honest here- I’m not a huge pumpkin fan because I think some pumpkin ales are either too spicy (with cinnamon, allspice, clove, etc) and they end up tasting like a sugarless pumpkin pie with a weird hoppy floral aroma. I’ve had a couple of barrel aged ones that were quite tasty, so I’m not knocking the pumpkin brews, just go easy on the spices.
When the kit arrived I was excited. Like a kid at Christmas I emptied out the box and started rifling through everything. The one gallon carboy, the StarSan, the thermometer, the siphon and tubing, caps and capper, the all-important wooden spoon, and then, most importantly, the recipe.
All grain? Where’s the can of malt? Holy crap, you’re throwing me to the wolves!
Yes, the kit is all grain- it has your crushed grains, hops (clearly marked), yeast, and any additional ingredients. Now, make sure you download the instructions (and watch the videos!) from the site and make sure you have everything you need (for example, I needed pumpkin puree and some spices for this recipe.) Once I gathered the courage to tackle my first all grain kit, I was very happy with how easy the instructions were and how enjoyable it was. I was nothing like I remember from college – hiding in our dorm room over a hot plate with less than properly sanitized equipment (which may explain our initial results.) My kids were curious, my neighbor was curious they were witnessing a fine art that few have mastered. I was their king and they were amazed. (Okay, so maybe not, but who cares- I was brewing!)
I kept my mash at temp, I sparged it just like I was supposed to and most importantly- I sterilized EVERYTHING. If cleanliness is next to godliness, I was doing the Lord’s work. I watched intently as the wort hit the hot break and I dropped in my bittering hops and kicked off my timer. Following the instructions like I’ve never followed instructions before, I dropped in the spices and the aroma hops and finished the boil. I put it in the ice bath and got it down to 70 as quickly as possible and transferred it just like I was supposed to and “pitched” my yeast with pride. With only a couple of pots to clean up, I tucked the one gallon jug away and had everything put away in no time. In only a couple of hours I had brewed my first beer in many, many years and had overcome my trepidation of undertaking an all grain brew even as such a novice.
Of course, the story doesn’t end there. Fermentation, bottling, carbonation, conditioning and a few weeks later we cracked open my first home brew just as we were starting to brew a five gallon batch of our Within Tolerances, a chocolate, coffee milk stout that personally I love. Since then I’ve brewed a few more five gallon all grain, custom recipe batches but I always enjoy doing a nice one gallon batch every month from Nashville Brew Post. My kids love it. They sit in the kitchen and help me keep time and make sure I’ve sterilized the spoon over and over again.
This month, on February 27th, we’ll be doing the MS Brew Movement, a great event which focuses on raising money for researching a cure for MS. Heather and I are excited and honored to be a part of the event and hope to see many of you there. As a tribute to the homebrewers and the people who helped get me back into brewing, MFS will be giving away a few recipes from Nashville Brew Post and a Brewers Best one gallon brew kit from Bernoulli Brew Werks. We’ll be pouring a few of our own homebrews including Within Tolerances, Left Handed Screwdriver (a honey wheat with orange zest and local wildflower honey) and hopefully a couple more at the event as well. We hope you come join us and support this great cause and drop your name in the hat for a chance to win!