Homebrew: The Home Game

“We did it, dude.”

A tired declaration to end a night of cooking and desperation, book-ended by feverish excitement.

After months of talking-without-doing and weeks of UPS limbo, my roommate and I had reached a goal we’d independently dreamt of for years. We were homebrewers.

It may sound dramatic, but my first homebrewing lightbulb moment did truly come five years ago. Eighteen and filled with misplaced determination, I spent many of my summer days scratching my head for ways to buy beer without a fake I.D. A friend told me about home brewing- a process where one creates their own beer from totally street legal ingredients- and I was immediately convinced I’d found the solution.

Unfortunately, upon light Googling, I discovered that- living with my parents- I had neither the time nor the secret beer dungeon required and my dream was put on hold.

But hold no more! I turned 21 (and then some), found a partner in crime (my roommate, Evan), and discovered that my apartment has a secret beer dungeon (wish I was joking)!

After ordering the equipment online and buying the ingredients at a local home brew store, we surveyed the supplies.

Were we overwhelmed by all the gadgets and gizmos apparently involved in making delicious (or potable) swill?
Of course, but we thought we had it under control.

Were we silly to think such a thing?
Of course.

As the night progressed, we hit a few snags.

  • I let a spider get into one of the “sanitized” pots. Luckily, Evan caught it before we’d gotten too far.
  • We discovered that our stovetop, while perfect for cooking pasta, is ill-equipped to swiftly bring 5 gallons of wort (fancy talk for the mixture that will become the beer) to a boil.
  • In another temperature manipulation dilemma, we realized we had no idea how to bring a boiling vat of wort back to room temperature. So we tried this:

For those who have never brewed beer before (and really, those who have), the above is a scalding pot of future beer that we are attempting to cool down by sticking it in a trash bag full of water. In our shower. It worked about as well as you might think.

At 1:45 a.m. (5 hours in), we broke down and Evan went to buy ice at CVS. This immediately brought the beer down to the necessary temperature and if you ever plan to brew your own beer, I suggest having ice or an army of frozen peas on hand.

Finally, it was time to move the wort to the fermenter and stick it in our secret beer dungeon.

Told you our apartment actually has a secret beer dungeon! It’s hidden behind Evan’s closet, and the only light is one bare bulb you can only turn off by unscrewing. It terrified us until we realized it could be used for beer.

So I’m sure you’re wondering, “How’s the beer?!” The short answer is that we have no idea. It’s still fermenting and then we have to wait another week once we bottle. I’ll be sure to update you as things develop.

But the longer answer- and my response to Evan’s exclamation that “We did it, dude” – is this:

“After a spider, the shower fiasco, and the admittedly questionable mold status of our secret beer dungeon, I’ll just be happy if this stuff tastes decent- because we’re drinking it no matter what.”


~Don Julian

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