Saturday, August 1, 2009

Crafting Patience

A couple of weeks ago I bottled the last of our summer beers, a standard American Blonde Ale; lightly hopped, and made with corn to give it some kind of ugly Americanization. Just the kind of beer you want after mowing the lawn in August, or out at the lake, or with friends and neighbors on the veranda. The basic beer that goes down fast any time it is hot and you are especially thirsty.

A week later, although I knew better, I cracked the first one to test. I do this with each beer, and the same scenario plays just like this:

It is carbonated, it smells OK, I put it to my lips for that first taste, expecting that first kiss that should be love. Each time the same wave of fear in the form of a cold sweat hits me without fail: THIS IS THE WORST BEER I HAVE EVER MADE!!!! It tastes like Ass in a bottle.

I usually have one another week later, and decide that it isn't quite ass in a bottle, perhaps a redheaded stepchild of a beer, perhaps it is drinkable, but I am still pretty ashamed. I tell everyone that I know that it sucks and start mentally going over every step of my brewing process to determine the what went wrong. Hot side aeration, inadequate hot or cold break, bad sanitation, bad juju, you name it, I think it.

In the blonde's case, I am two weeks and a few days into the process. Today, I got the beer as cold as I could, and poured it into a chilled glass, and find that I have a pretty good ale on my hands. It didn't even taste this good yesterday (remember the red headed stepchild?). Why can I know better, and still can't wait to reserve judgement? Why do I bother wasting beer, and telling the world what bad brewers we are, when I know it isn't ready. This is a temporary insanity of mine. I doubt my own skills.

As for the blonde, it isn't the best beer we have ever made, and I think that I will opt for giving up on using corn. This beer needs a little more body, a little more color and perhaps like me a little more time to mature. So, I preach patience, even if I am not always able to practice it. After 15 years of brewing, I am still more like George Costanza than I am any zen beer master. I have been lucky in that I have had very few undrinkable disasters, in fact, can only remember one really bad beer (sanitation issue) that needed to be introduced to the sewer. Most of the time, if I am disappointed, it is because I was expecting a different result.

The beer we make takes time, we can do little to speed it along as we nurture it. Knowing how things happen, when they happen, and to a lesser extent, why things happen should remind us that our beer is alive and ever changing. We should not be in a hurry to try our latest creations, after all there is a big world of beer out there, and we are apt to be disappointed in a beer that hasn't come into its own. While we are waiting, I suggest taking the opportunity to try local craft breweries' versions of the style you are attempting. If only I could l heed my own advice.

Happy brewing.

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