Thursday, November 22, 2012

Homebrewing, My New Favourite Hobby

So getting into Home Brewing has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while now.  I tried to convince my parents to let me brew in the basement, mum didn't want to deal with the smell.  It was a goofy dream that we talked about in undergrad engineering.  We proposed that the faculty give us access to a lab so we could make beer for the various EngSoc (Engineering Society) parties.  After all we could probably make beer for less than what EngSoc paid.  Of course this was shot down and later when I had my own place I could have started brewing, but it was buy the equipment or pay the mortgage and I like sleeping indoors.  When we moved to California and sold the house I thought about it again but the apartment was pretty small and I think there was actually something in the lease against it.  So it’s been an unfulfilled dream, chasing me through most of my adult life.

The general lack of selection of beer that is gluten free here in Germany reawakened an interest and the culinary and scientific aspects of brewing appeals to both my creative and analytical sides.  The winding trail that brought me to this day was a relatively long one.  Starting a few months ago, bored, I starting looking up how to make my own apple wine.  This was after Mrs. Thirsty and met some friends in Frankfurt for a weekend and we spent Vatertag drinking and chanting with a bunch of Germans.  There isn’t really an official Father’s Day in Germany.  Every year Ascension Day (a Thursday 40 days after Easter) is the official federal holiday; unofficially it is Vatertag (Father’s Day), also called Männertag (Men’s Day) or Herrentag (Gentleman’s Day).  The basic tradition is a group of men get together, pulling little wagons filled with beer, wine and regional foods and they hang out at eachother’s houses, parks, bars, wherever and drink.  This being a Thursday, most take the Friday off and make a long weekend out of the adventure.  This past Vatertag I was drinking rails of Applewein and having a great time with our friends from Canada here on a visit. (As far as I can remember.)

Back to the beer; starting with the basic search online I came to the Wikipedia article about Apfelwein.  Now, enjoying this stuff here in Hessen, I read through the article and found that it was considered more of a cider then a wine.  I loved cider back in Canada and California, so this led me to researching Cider Making and after scouring the internet for something more than Wikipedia and random recipes involving “take the Mott’s concentrate and...” I finally stumbled upon The Wittenham Hill Cider Portal which is Andrew Lea’s website.  I read through his series of articles and eventually ordered his book.  At the same time I also ordered a book on wine making.  After reading through the articles on cider making I though “Cider, wine, beer, hell they’re all pretty similar.  Bet I could figure out how to do a decent GF beer if I figure out the process”.  So back to Google I went.

I had heard about The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian before but I was trying to avoid it.  I’m not really sure why, but I think I was looking for something that I could relate to and I wanted to read up online before buying a book on the subject.  That’s about when I stumbled upon How to Brew by John Palmer.  This was what I was looking for, which I knew as soon as I read the bit about John being an engineer.  So after reading through the online published version of John’s book I went looking for anything out there related to Gluten Free Brewing and fell head first into the wonderful world of Home Brew Talk

There are a lot of home brewing sites out there, including Canadian Home Brewers, Aussie Home Brewer and Home Brew Talk.  What really stands out about Home Brew Talk is that they have an entire sub-forum dedicated to Gluten Free Brewing.  Just reading a couple threads here and there these guys blew my mind.  The creativity and open minded thought regarding ingredients and processes really intrigued me, I mean really, would you have thought that Sweet Potatoes would have been good in a beer?  Or red beets?  Forbidden Rice, it’s forbidden for Pete’s Sake, why would you think of using it in a brew?  So I decided right then to start at the beginning and read every single thread to absorb as much as possible.  It was like taking a walk through history, the first thread starting in 2006 and moving up through today with many of the threads spanning days, weeks, months and even years while people chronicled their trials and tribulations in Gluten Free Brewing.  It took me a good month to read through all the threads, making notes and writing down recipes that sounded good. 

The first batch of Fuldauer Burnt Honey Winter Apple Cyser is still working away.  I have the brew day post already up here.  I should be starting a bottling and tasting post sometime in the New Year.  As for beer, the Brew Day post for Ye Old Confused Brown Ale will be going up soon.