Monday, October 02, 2006

I have a kind of life-ADHD. It's inherited, and I found it irritating in my parents and I know my daughter finds it irritating in me. I am still about the goldfinches, and still about the fiber, and for that matter the gardening and the cats and the digging.

Right at the moment, however, I seem to be mostly about the brewing. The generations on either side of me worry that I will become alcoholic. I don't think so, and I pay attention (although I notice I've had have an empty tequila bottle next to my bed for the past month and an empty prescription container on the floor, giving me a pleasing Hunter Thompson ambience).

Although the kit wine I made was generally pretty decent (as long as I bottled it in a reasonable time,and bearing in mind that I have tried to keep my palate from becoming refined/expensive), and although I actually drink more wine, I love making beer.

It smells good. You get to make potions. You get to use yeast, which makes it more about symbiosis than cooking usually is (I used to be a a kickass breadbaker, but the gluten intolerance put an end to it. Also makes the beer somewhat problematic, though I get no detectable reaction to the dilute, chopped around proteins that survive in malted barley tea.). You get to have airlocks, kind of auditory LavaLamps that say 'Bloop' when you walk past.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Sometimes it's _really_ glad to see you...

It smells good, and it does bona fide amazing transformations over the brewing, fermenting, and bottling periods. The ingredients are not too expensive, and they have wonderful names like Maris Otter.The hardware is not too bad after the initial ~$60 investment, though there are a satisfying number of nifty gadgets to continue bleeding off unwanted cash.

I suspect some of my enjoyment in brewing plays off the same delight I find in using millenia-old technology to prproduce clothing, though the use of hops is pretty damn recent -- after the introduction of knitting to the West, barely becoming widespread before the European discovery of the New World (in other words, post-mediaeval crap). On the other hand, I haven't had much success with non-hop bittering, despite the earnest condemnations of Stephen Buhner.

My first forays into mead, the other ancient brew, were disappointing; though they smelled like honey/heaven, they tasted like a moderately dry white wine. It is quite easy and much faster to just buy a bottle of white wine, assuming you want to waste your money not buying red (this summer was the first time I really regularly appreciated the lightness of white wine on a hot evening). But then I tried some of the herb-infused meads, metheglins, which is a cool enough word to be almost worth the trouble right there. The problem with meads in general is that they take much longer to mature than beer or kit wine or even fruit wine (this is the book that started me off. Blame the SCA). Eighteen months is the minimum, and I have not been as good about recording recipes as I should be. I can't remember how much nettle and sage went into the tea after a couple of years. My more recent efforts have better records, partly thanks to Doug who has been very kind about about trying to get the details nailed down, like labels and mopping the floor. And my mead recipes tend to be in one-gallons, which seem hardly worth the trouble when after 18 months you end up with maybe ten 12-oz bottles.

Fortunately one of those bottles is enough to dispatch two adults.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This is the current lineup in the engine room, from left to right: Try to Remember September Ale, with pumpkin, a touch of saffron and honey, ready maybe in a month; Persephone's Lament pomegranate melomel (all fruit meads are technically melomels), appearing March 2008?; multi-berry Barkshack Gingermead, ready about the same time or maybe later; Shaker Peach Wine (the peaches are from Shaker Village, though the Shakers did not imbibe socially), ready next July or so; Blueberry Melomel, about 18 months if it ever settles down; Sweetfern Metheglin, another couple of years, and 2 jugs of Dandelion Wine, due for consumption in March of 2007, practically next week and I hope it loses the edge it had the last time we racked it.

When I go to the recycling center, I drop off some beer bottles (with screw-off tops; they would need special caps) and pick up others. God bless Sam Adams; if they ever go to unscrew caps, I will have to consider buying my beer bottles empty. The sad thing is that I like brewing better than drinking and I have largely non-drinking relatives. I can't sell it and there's a limit to what the basement will hold.


Norma said...

Well, hell. I did not know you were so hard core. Me and my innocent little booze-infused jams, and you with a regular distillery over there. :)

JoVE said...

But you have some beer drinking friends (though Norma is probably not one of them if she thinks it is distilled). We could make a trip down to help you out :-)

Rosemary said...

You could always bring the home brewed beer to me next time you visit DS in Annapolis. Hell, just let me know when you're going to be in Annapolis, and I'll pop over to say "Hi." I miss you.

LauraJ said...

Aww, Rosemary. I do need to come down there sometime.

And Norma, it's NOT a distillery, as that would be very very illegal, though entirely in accord with my hillbilly ancestry. Brewery. And maybe we can work out an exchange; I think motherwort mead might be a fine thing. Harvest me eight ozz?

Juno said...

By the time I got to "sometimes it is realy glad to see you" I was in hopeless giggles.

I miss you Laura J. Are you coming to Rhinebeck - along with 12 million other people, but at the least I'll get to give you a hug in passing?