Home is where the Wort is.

Better living through science.

It can be said of beer drinkers that they are an amazingly diverse group. Starting at the lowest rung, there exist the unwashed masses who don’t particularly care what their beer is made from, as long as the word “Lite” appears somewhere on the can and there isn’t too much actual beer flavor getting in the way of their “refreshment.” From there, we may ascend to those who believe they’ve finally arrived on the REAL beer scene because they occasionally splurge on a sixer of that trendy new microbrew, Samuel Adams. Moving ever upward, we find those who are able to tell from a single sip exactly what kind of hops were used, from what region of the world they originated and whether it was a good or poor hop growing season that year. Finally, at the apex of the beer snob pyramid, there are those who go beyond simply drinking their beer, preferring to hand select the grains and hops, sweat through stirring a hot and pungent wort, wrestle it into the fermenter and labor through the bottling process themselves. These people are more than mere aficionados, they are true craftsmen- they are Homebrewers.

Homebrewing is not an endeavor intended for the work-shy or the impatient. It requires meticulous preparation, an obsession with sanitation, some working knowledge of organic chemistry and a heap of faith. One careless move or moment of distraction can mean that all those weeks of anxious waiting will yield not a tasty and satisfying reward but rather the literal, bitter taste of failure in the form of malty vinegar.

Undaunted, my roommate Steve accepted the challenge. After a trip to the emporium of brewing supplies, he spent an entire Saturday afternoon attacking the task with gusto. Weeks after putting it to bed to bubble away in a side room next to the kitchen, Steve finally unleashed what he calls Captain Speed Racer’s Five Pack Amber Ale on a snowy day mid January. There is just something indescribably special about being handed an unlabeled bottle with a fizzy alcoholic mystery inside; you might find yourself feeling almost like a part of a secret society. Either that or work has been called off, you’re stuck home in a blizzard and there’s nothing to do but drink until you fall asleep. Both were true in this case.

Captain Speed Racer’s Five Pack Amber Ale does indeed live up to its name, pouring out a rich, cloudy amber to faintly red. Its head is thick, creamy and slightly straw-colored. Please understand that when I say the head is thick, I mean some seriously hefty suds- to illustrate my point, I successfully floated a bottle cap on top! As I dipped my nose towards the glass I was greeted with a very sweet, extremely malt-forward fragrance. There is a distinct sweetness about most homebrews. Being that this is not an exact science, oftentimes there remains some level of unfermented sugar left in the beer. In extremely “undercooked” cases, this can be a horrible thing to try to choke down. However, simply from the aroma of this beer, I could tell beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was as fully fermented as could be hoped. As the first sip crossed the threshold of my lips, that trademark homemade sweetness made an immediate and heavy impact on my tongue, followed by the warm, slick malt body bursting with caramel notes. As the taste further developed in my mouth, a muted hop dryness followed it up. These hops weren’t overly noticeable and they definitely do not co-star with the malt in this ‘beerformance,’ but those slight floral notes were just enough to dry and balance the sweetness that forms the foundation of the brew. As I swallowed, I found the aftertaste to be clean and without any residual stickiness or candy aftertaste. For a malty amber, this beer is suprisingly refreshing. My glass was left with heavy sheets of lacing, a solid testament to the thick and persistent head that followed each sip down the sides of the glass. Because the beer was bottle-carbonated, the bubbles are extremely fine which allows one to drink several bottles in relatively close succession without being made to feel overly full, making this an extremely capable session beer.

Overall, I would call this a very successful effort by Mr. Clines. He not only managed to avoid the common pitfalls of the process which can lead to an unpalatable homebrewed mess, but also took enough care in selecting the ingredients that his beer is both hearty and malt-forward as well as refreshing, which is no small task. As we drank that Wednesday blizzard into submission, everyone was satisfied and Steve should be extremely proud.

Stay tuned for more adventures in homebrewing, as I’ll be putting some form of porter into glass this week. I’ll make sure to take plenty of pictures and detail the entire process in a future post.

~ by schlippo on January 28, 2011.

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