Monday, August 8, 2011

Lavender Pale Ale: Part I

I like to think my family is pretty "normal," whatever the heck that is. I mean, we all genuinely get along and enjoy each other's company (unless they secretly have always been annoyed by my awkward jokes and love of country music and haven't told me, which is definitely plausible. Update: My brothers have since made it very clear that they, in fact, do not enjoy my company, and reminded me that they tell me on almost a daily basis that I'm weird and a nuisance in their lives. Who knew? Must've blocked that out).

However. I no longer think we're normal. I believe it hit me while sitting in a circle of lawn chairs in the back yard, surrounding a boiling pot of water in 90 degree weather, with this music blaring from giant speakers that are pressed up one of the windows. I wouldn't blame you for thinking there's witchcraft going on back there. Or a 70s funk convention. Either way, both sound kinda fun. So even if a misinterpretation of my family being normal has dramatically changed the way I view the past 20+ years, at least we're having fun turning people into rabid animals making beer.

For those of you who don't know, brewing is quite a process. Thus why I will be sharing it with you over a couple of posts. From deciding on a recipe to having the finished, drinkable product, it can take over a month. My dad and brothers are the main force behind brewing in this house, but my mama and I offer our (obviously well-informed) opinions, temperature-gauging abilities, excellent (and definitely not intrusive) photography skills, and snacks (my God, I can't believe I just used that word. I despise that word in the way that most people despise the word "moist." Did you just cringe? Well, I hate the s-word, so don't expect to hear it again. And don't ask questions.)

For this beer, we wanted to use herbs we have growing in the garden. So step one was gathering a bunch of herbs and making tea out of them to decide on a flavor that we liked.

1. Sage 2. Lavender 3. Costmary 4. Chocolate Mint 5. Rosemary 6. Tarragon 7. Oregano 8. Savory 
9. Broadleaf Sage 10. Thyme 11. Hop Flowers

We decided lavender was the most enjoyable and settled on it for this beer. Pretty girly if you ask me, Dad, but you didn't. So moving on. (Just kidding, it was a great choice, Pops. The rest were kinda gross.)

Next we got the grains we wanted to use: 9 lbs of 2-row, 1 lb Crystal malt 60L, and 1 lb of Victory malt. (You totally understand what that means, right? Cause I definitely do.)

This is bound to get slightly technical. Technical=boring. So you might want to just look at the pictures. That's what I'll probably do so I don't fall asleep reading this later. 

When it came time to brew, we created a mash by mixing the grains with hot water. After letting the mash sit at 155 degrees F for a little while, the liquid is extracted and the spent grains are disposed (or used to make pizza dough. Refer to paragraph 1 for reasons why my family is not normal). This precious liquid is the wort. 

The mash


I'm over technicalities. You are, too? That's what I like to hear. Yeah, so then we boil the wort for a while, certain temperatures, specific timing, yada yada...Well, if you really want to know you can ask and I'll refer to the brains behind this operation. (Oh, you thought that was me? That's so kind of you.) 

It's during this time that the lavender and hops are added. We used hop pellets and hop flowers we have growing in our garden. 

Oh, snap! I almost forgot the most crucial part! 

"It takes beer to make beer."

Did you grab yourself a brew too? Good. Check back for Part II to see the rest of the process! And keep drinking...maybe you'll actually find my humor less awkward that way (unlike my family). 

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