Pilsner + Cascade + RusticIt’s been two years since I last tried…

Pilsner + Cascade + Rustic

It’s been two years since I last tried homebrewing. My last attempt was such an unmitigated disaster that poured the gunk down the drain and locked away the sanitizer. It just seemed too much work for so little. The ingredients for this batch cost twenty bucks, and only made a gallon of beer. That’s an expensive six-pack. It would be just as rewarding to spend that money on actual beer.

However, I’ve been reading Lars Garshol’s blog about tiny farmhouse brewers in Scandinavia and the former Soviet republics. Where brewers are making amazing beer without any modern equipment and bizarre yeast strains. It’s all very rustic – wooden equipment, superstitious screams,

brewers who would rather measure temperature with the skin of their elbows than thermometers. it makes brewing sound as easy and natural as cooking.

Then an old friend of mine bought his first home brewing kit. It sounded so fun. So I pulled out the old pots and pans, and, on a random Wednesday morning, I buckled by tiny brewing partner into the back seat and went looking for ingredients. I wanted to make something quick and easy. I grabbed three pounds of Pilsner malt, a packet of Cascade hops, a pouch of Imperial Yeast’s Rustic strain.

I had my beer: Pilsner, Cascade, Rustic. 

Well, I had the ingredients for my beer. We took everything home and started heating up water. I put the pot on the stove, and we poured hot water over our grains. An hour and a half later we pulled out the bag of mash and poured in more water. We turned up the heat, and when the wort started to boil, added some hops. An hour and a half later, tossed in the remaining hops and shut off the heat. It took some time to cool, but then those tiny yeasties went to work straight away. 

It was simple, but there were a few hiccups. I dropped the thermometer in the cooling wort. Whoops! That’s fried. Also, our tiny apartment stove couldn’t handle the pressure. Five hours of constant use was too much for it; the burner completely collapsed. The price of this brew just went up another twenty dollars.

For the few weeks I was convinced this was all a big mistake. It was fun, but it’s too much hassle, too much money. In those two weeks, my buddy texted with questions. Why does his beer taste smokey? Is it bad? And as his beer went off the rails, I was convinced mine wasn’t far behind. I mean, can you even bottle condition in a growler?

Well, yes you can. Last weekend I opened the first one and heard the hiss. I saw the bubbles. I made beer.

And it isn’t half bad. There’s still a lot of yeastie particulate floating about, but it tastes like beer. It’s got great yeasty esters throwing off all sorts of banana and clove notes. There’s actual depth to the body. And the bitterness is sharp but layered. I made an actual beer. It feels amazing.