Jay, recently returning from a sabbatical, joined me for a brew session this past week. We are friends from college, meeting each other at K-State several years ago. We learned about the arcane practice of brewing from our roommate Chris. Splitting a homebrew batch between three will only net you a few six-packs, so obviously somebody needed to get kicked off the island. Poor sanitation techniques such as chilling the beer in a bathtub, and preparing “sani water” without measuring chemicals, would lead to problems for us down the road. In all fairness, the beer tasted pretty good. Over five years, the beer that Jay and I brewed would crescendo from great (let’s start a brewery), to undrinkable (lets find a new hobby). Our triumphs were gold medals at amateur contests, BJCP certifications, and a sense of wonder at our skill. Our failures, much like the infamous pinball ESB and spruce-infused lager, were numerous, yet educational. I sincerely feel that a successful person is a sum of their failures; more specifically, the sum of how they react to their failures. We started the process by milling our grains: Bohemian Pilsner, Maris Otter, white wheat, and dark English crystal. This is a simliar grain bill to my previous farmhouse beers, but with no roasty or toasty malts. Jay informed me of several techniques to get a better extraction rate from the grains. The first of these is to stir vigorously often throughout the mash. Secondly, recirculating your first runnings will filter out the murkiness from the sweet liquor, reducing grains or chill-haze proteins from entering the kettle. Lastly, having more than enough water allowed us to use as much as we needed. By the time we stopped our lauter, the liquid above the grain bed was completely clear. Talking mash efficiency can be a bit tiresome, as it becomes competitive rather easily. Some people have devoted years of their life to get the best efficiency (and then tell the poor guy at the homebrew store all about it for three hours). Perhaps there is a correlation between mash efficiency and social deficiency? If that’s so, then I’m due for a week of awkwardly mumbling at people and walking away from them mid-sentence. Wait, that’s normal for me! Once the kettle was filled and fired, the wort developed a rich espresso-like crema that had me drooling. This beer was lightly bittered with Zythos hops, but heavily flavor/aroma hopped with New Zealand Motueka. I was recently at a very informative meeting with some local brewers at Boulevard Brewery. I was very humbled to meet some of this town’s big names. One of the nicest people there was Josh from Big Rip Brewing. He is a passionate beer guy who is easy to talk to. In fact, the brewing community is filled with laid-back people with great attitudes. While my brain was trying to wrap itself around the previous year’s weather patterns and the effects on the barley crop, a heavenly aroma kept wafting over to me. While the brewers were taking a break between presentations, I shuffled over to that table that was titillating my nose. This is how I met my new favorite hop, Motueka: by sniffing an open bag of hops, alone, as two dozen local brewers around me are drinking, talking, laughing, and paying attention to each other. Pretty normal behavior, right? I think it helped things when I laughed maniacally and fled the premise. Moteuka played a big role in this beer, hopefully contributing aromas of lime, lemon, and tropical fruits. Jay suggested that we enhance this citrus quality with raspberries and cherries. This will be done post-fermentation so that the fruit aroma will be significant. Tune in two weeks from now to see how this big (8% abv) beer turns out, served though our beer engine.