Come November – when the Brew Hui project concludes – and I’m reading back through the year’s posts, this one will almost certainly be my least favourite. If only to shorten the torture for my future self, I’ll try to keep the lyrical masturbation to a minimum this week.
These blog posts are generally given generous stewing time – a period in which the fat is rendered from my first musings, and the richness of the final product is (hopefully) enhanced. By way of example, the last post – where Brew Hui Met: Luke Nicholas – stewed for 5 days before plating; the one about my Papa building my mash paddle, closer to 10. But I reckon certain posts (specifically this one) require raw immediacy in both their writing and posting – the former, to ensure moment-in-time candid accuracy; the latter, to prevent the kind of post-production puffery that would filter the rawness from the post.
The need for immediacy here is paramount; because – at least for its chief protagonist – the Brew Hui project has hit a bit of a low point. For the first time, I’ve started to wonder if this whole thing was such a good idea at all.
I said candid, remember.
I know what you’re thinking: you’ve gone ahead and assumed that – true to current form – the brew day was an abject disaster; but you’re wrong. It wasn’t. In fact, it was so dissimilar to the Brew Hui Pale Ale clusterf**k that the contrast somewhat resembles chalk and cheese. I overcame – through hours of middle-of-the-night, lying-in-bed-awake planning – every single one of the problems encountered during the inaugural brew day; several of which the Brew Hui readership (ha!) aren’t even aware of (the amount of fat that was rendered from that particular post would clog even the healthiest of arteries).
The design flaw in the false bottom had been overcome by a combination of a) careful thought and b) eleven cents worth of muslin – and the resulting ease-of-flow during first runnings put a nauseatingly-innocent grin on my stupid punchable face:
Honestly: from mash tun to fermenter, the Best Bitter brew day was perfect.
Right up until the moment that I checked the original gravity.
The original gravity (or OG) tells you how much sugar is in your beer before fermentation. A high OG – say 1.076, which was the OG of the Brew Hui Pale Ale – indicates lots of available sugar; for the Brew Hui Best Bitter, I was aiming for an OG of 1.040 – a reasonably-stiff malt backbone for a quaffable Four-Percenter.
After a perfect brew day – which couldn’t have been more By The Book if I’d written the f**king Book myself – the Best Bitter wort weighed in at a piffling 1.022.
My heart sank. If I’d wanted a pint of bitter-tasting water, I’d have turned the tap on and reached for a bottle of Angostura; as it stands, I’m left with nigh-on fifteen litres of weak, thin, horribly-bitter hose water.
But the fact that I’ve got a veritable shitload of this stuff taking up valuable fermentation space isn’t the thing that’s bothering me the most. It isn’t even the wasted consumables – we’ve talked about the irrelevancy of dwelling there already. The source of most of my angst – and the reason I’m writing this at 2:15am on Best Bitter Brew Day Plus One, having woken with my conscience in knots – boils down to something much more visceral:
Newsflash: doing something that takes all f**king day comes with a pretty significant opportunity cost. For me, the most acutely-felt of these is time lost with my little family – who won’t be so little forever, and I have it on good authority that regret lasts a lifetime. I’m trying my best to make brew days as seamless as possible for my wife and kids – even incorporating them into the process as often as I can, with mashing-in fast becoming a heavily-photographed Daddy-Kidlet event (those photos are just for us, as I’m sure you’ll understand).
But the fact remains that there’s an enduring guilt that comes from spending the day doing something that is essentially mine. When you’re turning-down playgrounds and hand painting, you have to be pretty damn certain that you’re trading them for something worthwhile; and I’m sorry, but regardless of lessons-learned – i.e.: check the original gravity before adding in the second runnings – I simply would never swap a good see-saw and some pink fingerprints for a bucket full of bollocks and a poxy brewing lesson.
The second Brew Hui brew day was my chance at redemption; and despite best efforts, I remain stranded at the bottom of the brewing ladder. It was the kind of day that made me want to rewind time – I don’t want to think about how far – just so I could have our day back. Oh, and the night, too; since all this Daddy Guilt is bad news if you plan on getting through the wee small hours with an unscathed conscience.
So there it is: a candid reflection of the second Brew Hui brew day. It’s certainly not the most eloquent or profound thing I’ve ever written – and it doesn’t even have the saving grace of Being Funny. Unfortunately – and with the exception of the word masturbation in the first paragraph – the fact is that I’m not in a funny mood.
This post is simply a reflection of Me, Now; and that’ll just have to do.
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