Homebrewing without killing the family dog

The ingredients for a beer I call Summer Girl.

The ingredients for a beer I call Summer Girl.

It’s been a long, long time since I brewed a beer – more than a year in fact.

According to my homebrewing log the last time I put down a brew was in July 2015. That was an attempt to make a copy of the Yeastie Boys’ Gunnamatta, which is an IPA that uses Earl Grey tea. Except that I swapped out the Earl Grey for Green Rose, which had a fruity note that I figured would combine well with the hops. So it wasn’t really that much like Gunnamatta in the end.

From memory it didn’t taste as good as Gunnamatta either – it wasn’t awful but put those two beers side by side and ain’t no one saying “wow, Glen, your homebrew is so much better than this Yeastie Boys crap”. Not even me.

There’s been a homebrew drought of more than a year because I had enough store-bought beer to drink and so didn’t see the need to make more. Also, brewing is a pain in the butt and you have to really WANT to do it. And I didn’t want to do it any more.

Until last week, when I broke the homebrew drought because my wife made me. See, for a few summers in a row I made a beer for her, that was also named after her. It’s called Summer Girl; it’s a Stone & Wood Pacific Ale clone which I reckon is one of the best beers I’d ever made.

For the last few months, she’d been asking me if I could make some for this summer. So I did (incidentally, I looked back at the old homebrew posts here on the blog and found it wasn’t the first time she’d done this)

And here are a few things I observed from making my first brew in 18 months.

1) It takes ages: One thing I didn’t like about brewing is all the time it takes. Even though Summer Girl only uses a small amount of specialty grains it still took around three hours from steeping to having the wort cool enough to pitch the yeast. And it’s not like you can leave it and go do something; you’ve just got to hang around the kitchen watching a pot boil

2) Make sure you don’t kill the dog: This was the first brew I made since we became dog owners. Previously, I’d throw the hop slurry on the veggie garden as some sort of environmental compensation for the amount of energy and resources homebrewing swallows up. I was just about to do that last week when I remembered hops could be toxic for dogs. Accidentally bumping off the family pet while making homebrew seems a very bad move.

3) I’m old: The last time I did this I could read the recipe, the yeast package and whatever else without glasses. This time? No chance. So I had to put on the specs to read and then take them off so they didn’t fog up during the boil.

4) I might do it again: The whole process has sparked my interest in brewing. It’s only a little spark, just barely smouldering away – and it might go out when I bottle Summer Girl (bottling is such a pain) or if I taste the beer and it’s infected (that sucks). But maybe, just maybe, I might once again justify the tag of “homebrewer”.

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