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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

To Brew or Not To Brew....

About a decade ago, post CML (cans of Miller Lite), I expressed an urge to try and brew my own beer. The urge itself amazed me, because my only experience with home brew was a few years prior. After one of my rugby matches, a teammate offered me a bottle of his home made beer. It did not matter to me how tired, sweaty or drained I was, one sip of his beer and I immediately spit it on the ground thinking it tasted like wet hay. So, I said, thanks, but no thanks, and out of my cooler I picked up a can of Miller Lite.

Years later, with a refined taste and knowledge of beer, I wish I could try his beer again, enjoy its taste and share in his brewing accomplishment. Unless it actually did taste like wet hay. Either way, Coy, if you are out there, I apologize. I hope that my spitting out your beer did not send you back to the world of CML.

I have to admit, I was scared to brew my first batch of beer. My wife bought me a complete homebrewing kit for Christmas, she even bought me a set of stainless steel pots. Coincidently, much to my wife's chagrin, that same Christmas, my secretary bought me a homebrewing kit also. With two kits, fate would have it that I was destined to be a homebrewer. And with simple advice from the local homebrew shop, how could I fail. I'll never forget the shopkeepers words, "Have you ever made soup? It's as simple as that."

Thankfully, my wife had also bought me lots of homebrewing books to build up my confidence before actually brewing my first batch. In hind sight, I still do not understand those books and the shop keeper was right. It was as simple as making soup. Boil water, add ingredients, stir, ad more, stir, cook some more, stir, add more stuff, stir, cook, stir. Done. Wait two weeks, drink beer. Drink damn good, healthy beer.

As time went on, things did get more complicated as I advanced into another level of brewing, buying more equipment, changing recipes around, coming up with my own. But one thing didn't change, damn good beer. The best part was naming the stuff. Dr. J's Rock the Dock Bock was an early popular brew. Friends actually requested me to make more. Dr. J's Subluxation Ale was even mentioned in Brew Your Own magazine.

So, what's on tap now? That's right, I said tap. I graduated from putting my beer in bottles to kegging 5 gallon batches of brew. Nothing like pouring one of your own on Draught, and right now it is a Belgian Winterfest Ale. Brewing your own beer is very rewarding and there is a lot of pride involved when one of your friends takes a swig and says, "Hey, this is really good." So, I say to you, give it a whirl, and if you don't want to get involved with all of the brewing stuff, there is always a Mr. Beer machine!

The Beer:

Dr. J's Belgian Winterfest Ale: A dark red beer with a thick head, The smell of cinnamon and slight orange follows with a hoppy taste. The beer tasted pretty good. I should have followed the recipe. I was supposed to add a whole jar of clover honey to the brew, but I thought that it would have made it to sweet. Now the beer tastes like it should be sweeter and not so hoppy. If I don't tell my experienced guests that it is a winter ale, and just tell them it is some sort of Belgian IPA, I'll be alright.

Heavyweight Brewing, Two Druids Ale: Based on a medieval recipe before hops were used in the brewing process. This beer contains Rosemary, Yarrow and Sweet Gale. It pours a nice thick, cloudy color with a thin head. You can smell the Rosemary. The first taste is sweetish and fizzy. Deceptively strong. You don't notice the warming sensation until after a few sips. I don't like to compare beer to wine, but if I did, this beer would be like a very dry chardonnay or a dry champagne. A great beer to toast the New Year as well as enjoy the other 52 weeks of the year.

Flying Fish Brewing, Grand Cru Winter Reserve: I had to try a professional breweries Belgian Winter Ale to see how my home brew version stacked up. It is a good thing one of my patients brought this in for me to sample. Light, orange color, bright, white head. Nice, tasting beer, clean, crisp and refreshing. The only problem is that I can't describe the taste. I really don't know what it is that I am tasting. I do know I like the beer. I just can't pick up the spices. Maybe you can help me out? My version had the pronounced taste of definite spices, even if they were not in the correct proportions. But, maybe that is because I know what I put in there. What's in there Fish Guys? Secret Recipe?

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