Saturday, January 29, 2011

Running can't be bottled. This home brew shouldn't be.

One of my biggest mistakes was making a really good home brew. Well, actually my mistake was making a pretty good home brew, and then sharing it with a few other people. Now I have way too high expectations to meet as for the all subsequent brews I make. Even worse, there's no real way I could ever reproduce that home brew ever again since brewing involved about five "oh shit" moments during a rather chaotic afternoon in the kitchen. The beer was from a recipe from Randy Mosher's book Radical Brewing called Black Ship Pirate's Stout, and for Randy Mosher's sake, it's probably good he didn't actually witness me brewing his beer. But somehow, all the flavors came together wonderfully and upon my first taste, I had my first "Damn, did I just brew this?" moment in home brewing. And since a few friends really enjoyed it, there were plenty of requests for my next home brew.

My next home brew I decided to call Brandon's Maple Brown Ale, a tribute to my son and his love for pancakes with maple syrup. And indeed, this home brew involved the requisite five "oh shit" moments and was yet another chaotic day in the kitchen. I used way too little water for the grain mash, creating a brown, jiggly, gelatinous gunk and zero malt extraction. So I poured pot after pot of water at 180 degrees over it to release the malt, sparging the beejeesus out of this mess in order to get something the yeast could feast on. Something weird happened when I poured the maple syrup into the secondary fermenter, the fermentation never really got going, and I had to shake the carboy a week later to jump start the fermentation again. The good news is that I will never be able to reproduce it, since my first reaction upon tasting it was "Damn, did I just brew this crap?". The beer has grown on me a little since, and I now call it an acquired taste, which is what brewers say about their beers when multiple consumption of the beer is required to build up a tolerance to it.

Perhaps in a brutally logically way, this is a fitting tribute to my son Brandon, since he has autism, and something didn't go quite right in his brewing process. But he's suffered enough, and brewing an odd-tasting beer in his name to add insult to his injury was certainly not my intention. I am dutifully distributing bottles of Brandon's Maple Brown Ale to all my friends who asked for it, with a gentle warning of what is in for them if they try it, and that they won't be hurting my feelings if they pour it down the drain. But there will be other home brews which will be better, and one of the best things about home brewing is that you can share your brewing success with others quite directly.

On the other hand, running success can be difficult to share with others, and certainly cannot be bottled. There's no way to distill my best races and runs and give them to others. But since these moments involved gastro-intestinal distress, burning sensations in both the lungs and legs, and I smelled rather awful afterwords, it's doubtful these bottled running moments would be particularly popular or welcome. There's a reason more people like drinking beer than running.

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