Ten reasons why beer is better than women (or at least wine)
Fri Jul 13 2007
There are less than two hours to go until I taste my homemade beer and wine. Who else is feeling the excitement? My colleagues have already sent a few half-joking eulogies, anticipating a wine-related calamity. Not since Homer ate the blowfish has there been this much suspense over the health consequences of a culinary event.
But I am not here to talk about wine. Or to bury it. Today I'm going to complete the tale of the beer-making process. Last we left things, I had brewed it (with instant oatmeal packets for extra flavor) and fermented it with delightfully fizzy yeast. Beer fermentation, my instructions tell me, takes between 36 and 72 hours. Then it must settle for another few days.
Notice how blissfully imprecise all these instructions are, just as the brewing instructions were barbarically simple. I would sum those up as follows: Throw stuff in pot; boil. I ended up letting my mash settle for three or four weeks. I don't even know how long it was. The beer just sat there, perfectly content. It didn't need to be cleaned. It didn't need to be aroused. It waited for me on my terms. (DO YOU HEAR THAT, WINE, YOU HIGH-MAINTENANCE PRINCESS?)
Sorry. These emotions have been welling up for a long time.
The final step of producing the beer was simply to bottle it, which was complicated only insofar as I couldn't figure out how to siphon my beer from its glass fermenting jug and into the bottling bucket (a plastic bucket fitted with a little faucet at the bottom). On the night I bottled, I stared at the siphoning portion of the beer-kit directions for a solid 30 minutes without a glimmer of comprehension. My previous experience with siphoning involved my dad using our garden hose to empty out my water bed and accidentally ingesting a good portion of its fetid, chemical-laden contents. So forgive me I proceeded with irrational caution here.
I finally took the various siphoning tubes and set up a test system using kitchen pots and water. I figured out I had to pump the siphon tube until the liquid crept up over a tipping point and began filling the second pot. From there transferring beer was easy. (In case you were wondering, this is all necessary because five gallons of mash is a bit much to just lift up and pour.)
At this point I also added a good portion of sugar (it came premeasured in the kit), dissolved it in water and poured it in with the brew. The extra sugar gives the yeast a snack to munch on once it's in the bottle. The resulting by-product is what gives beer its carbonation. When I tasted the fermented wort, it was essentially finished beer minus the bubbles. The taste was good, too—a little sweet (as brown ales tend to be) with a nice velvety texture and a seemingly powerful kick of alcohol. It tasted like something between a Newcastle and various starkbiers I've had in Germany (syrupy ales that can run up to 8 or 9 percent alcohol).
Bottling the beer was easy and fun. The kit comes with a filling tube, so you don't have to keep turning the faucet on and off. It's basically a straw that you insert into each bottle with a small stopper at the tip. When you press the stopper against the bottom of the bottle, it lifts up and allows beer to flow. Once the liquid fills close to the tip, you lift up the straw and the stopper shuts off the flow. Pretty ingenious.
To recap: Beer = simple and fun; wine = complex and stressful. When you're mired in a destructive codependent relationship with a shiraz, don't say I didn't warn you.