I love beer. It fascinates me, everything about it: the vast array of styles, ranging from crisp, light pilsners to thick milk stouts; the various combinations of ingredients and techniques associated with each, always centering around the same basics—water, malt, hops, and yeast; and the rich history, which includes the world's oldest continually valid food and drink regulatory law, the Reinheitsgebot. Speaking of history, did you know President Carter effectively legalized homebrewing when he signed H.R. 1337 into law in 1978? Needless to say, when it dawned on me that I could brew my own, my first thought was, "Sign me up."
Now, before I make myself out to be some sort of beer guru, I should explain that brewing beer is actually quite simple. How To Brew author John J. Palmer sums it up best:
1. Malted grain is soaked in hot water to create fermentable sugars.
2. The malt sugar solution is boiled with hops for seasoning.
3. The solution is cooled, and yeast is added to begin fermentation.
4. The yeast ferments the sugars, releasing carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol.
5. When the main fermentation is complete, the beer is bottled with a little bit of added sugar to provide carbonation.
That's it—people have been doing it for thousands of years, literally. Of course, the art & science of brewing has advanced much over the years, especially in recent decades. Without the craft beer revolution that has turned America into Mecca for suds & hop heads, I would have never given any more attention to beer than what is demanded by a bland adjunct lager with fewer than 100 calories (Hint: It rhymes with "mud geyser"). But after years of developing a palate for Berliner Weiss and Trappist Ales alike, touring breweries, and consulting resources like BeerAdvocate and RateBeer, my desire to brew at home became too much to ignore.
Still, it took awhile for me to actually dive in. But with the help of a teacher (pictured below, with beard) and an investor (also pictured below, with flaming hat), I finally did it. We held our inaugural Wayne Co. brew day at the end of January, bottled the beer on Fat Tuesday, and cracked it open just in time for our farewell to Ohio.
A few weeks in the making (and a few days in the drinking), I would consider our first effort a great success. We brewed an India Pale Ale, the style that made beer "click" for me four years ago. As I will do for all future Down Homebrews, I have profiled "Fat Tuesday IPA" below.
Fat Tuesday IPA
Style: American India Pale Ale (IPA)
Malt: Irish Stout, Caramel 60, Wheat, Honey.
Overall: A nice, aromatic, and highly drinkable IPA;
an encouraging first effort. The lower alcohol content
seems to bring out a more distinctive hop & malt character, resulting in a well balanced beer.
Appearance: Pours a hazy sunburst orange; topped with a pillowy, bright paper-white head.
Aroma: Notes of pine and citrus; very hoppy.
Taste: Hop forward, with a juicy, floral character; somewhat spicy, herbal; balanced by rich, toasty malt profile and a bit of honey sweetness.
Mouthfeel: Medium, smooth; nice, crisp carbonation and relatively low alcohol content for an IPA.