My boss kindly let me take my last floating holiday off after we discovered the current fiscal year cut off four days before the beginning of the next fiscal year. So I took off on Friday, which promised to be the slowest of the days available (everything went to hell regardless).
So, in the interest of research on Alien Blue, which-as-you-know-Bob, is my story about aliens and beer, I dropped in on a local brewery.
Rocky Mountain Brewery is the new brewery side of My Homebrew Shop, run by Dwayne Lujan. I went on a recommendation by a coworker, in fact, the same coworker whose constant ramblings about his adventures in homebrew that were one of the seeds of the story.
You know what? My impression is that homebrewing is a lot like writing, in that a lot of people talk about wanting to do it but don't actually get around to it; a smaller number of people (but still a fair amount) do get around to doing it, but in a halfassed way; a small number of people dig far enough into the craft to get any good at it; and a very few people have become very fine indeed, with well-chosen failures and surprising successes.
The brewery seems like it's on its way toward the last group. Granted, I don't know all that much about beer, but I do know more than most people do. --I know more about rocket science than most people do, but you wouldn't want me with one hand on the big, red button, either. I can look at a piece of equipment and tell you whether it's the fermenter or the lauterer.* I know what fresh hops smell like. I know that Irish moss and isinglass**are good for getting rid of unwanted proteins and involve collagen somehow. But I thought it was good, and I'm excited to go back in a week and a half and try the raspberry cider when it comes out.
So anyway. I walked in what looks like the right door but probably wasn't. The place isn't pretty. It's in a big tin-sided warehouse/garage/redneck strip mall building, and the interior hasn't been finished off yet. They've built a bar for tasting, but some of the drywall isn't painted, and you can walk right into the brewing area if you feel like it.
I didn't see anyone, so I wandered through the brewery into the homebrew shop. Thirty types of malt, or more. A fridge that looked like it had been stolen from a good florist was filled with drawer after drawer of different types of hops and mad-scientist vials of yeast varieties. Specialty grains. Malt-in-a-can. Powdered corn sugar. Preprinted wine labels. Caps and caps and more caps. I opened up some of the malt barrels, shoved my face in, and sucked up the smell of a field of late-summer grain toasting under the sun. Ahhhh...
One of the guys came over eventually. He looked like he was barely old enough to drink legally, let alone brew beer that was any good, but he was. Later, I met the owner, but he was extremely busy and seemed kind of creeped out by having a female in his space making direct eye contact--an Iowa grandpa type, if you know it.
I told the younger guy what I was doing--I suspect "I'm writing a book" is kind of like a Get Out of Jail Free Card--and said I was considering brewing a batch of beer on premises, which I am. The homebrew shop has this deal where you can brew a five-gallon batch of beer for about $65, using their equipment and advice. You could do wine, too, but I forgot how much that was. Beginners kits for both, too.
Well, that got me a tour. I feel like...I know more about beer than I did before I walked in there. It's hard to explain; I feel like I've always known the things I know now, only I know that I didn't know them before I walked in there on Friday.*** At any rate, it connected all my carefully-researched bits of information into a whole.
I tried the Rocky Mountain Brunette (a nut-brown ale) but wasn't impressed; I've never had a nut-brown ale before, and I suspect the whole genre isn't to my taste. My tastebuds said, "Where's the porter? Where's the stout?"
The Smoked Hefe Weissen was worth writing home about.**** I took to it immediately, but the guy I talked to warned everyone else who tried it--I was there for a couple of hours--that they might not like the smokiness at first taste, but it would grow on them. It did.
I'm used to unfiltered wheat beers that feel like you can chew on them, refreshing but mighty in the thews, as it were, so I wasn't expecting theirs. A light, slightly-filtered beer with crispness and a bite on the tongue, it turned out to be the perfect beer-and-pizza beer. Summer food beer. I wish I'd had crab salad and crackers to eat with it, now that I think about it. Happily, it'll be one of the permanent beers on the brew list, so I can take home a growler whenever I feel like it, which is what I did on Friday.
Unfortunately, they'd almost been drunk out of house and home since their grand opening, and they were out of the porter and amber ale I'd spied on the list, and the raspberry cider.
So if you're in town, I recommend stopping by. If you're not in town, I recommend finding out whether you have a small brewery nearby. It's a lot of fun.
**Seaweed and fish bladders.
***If that makes sense, cut back on the Dramamine.