I find it interesting to hear responses when I tell people I’ve been brewing my own beer (and I tell a lot of people). Common first responses include “Why?” (because I can), “How?” (with my secret recipes), “Where?” (at the official MNB headquarters in the ATL) but the much better and fairly frequent response is to hear some great story about some horrible home brew they’ve tried before. It seems that almost everyone has had a friend, relative, fraternity brother, or ex-spouse who has brewed a few home brewskies. The majority of these stories go something to the effect of “Oh yeah, I had a friend/relative/frat brother who used to brew some beers. he made me taste it and I just about puked/vomited/depledged”. While there are the rare great home brew stories (in all seriousness I talked to a guy last week whose wife is a chemist who wooed him over with her homebrews on the first date…that’s some kind of woman there) it seems that the negative home brew experiences are ever so prevalent.
The basic cause for these numerous botched brews that no one should ever have to experience boils down to essentially two reasons: lack of precision/cleanliness and an over-zealous creative flare. While I’m by no means claiming that we gents at MNB are masters of anything, we have attempted to minimize our blunders by avoiding the aforementioned pitfalls (although some would argue that our christ as brew aka “liquid tree” was over the top). This past weekend I had the privilege of witnessing the convergence of these two blunders at their best in what I am calling the ultimate frat brew. On Saturday afternoon we went to see Bob the brewmaster. Bob sells beer ingredients, helps you with recipes, brews a lot, and drinks even more. On any given saturday you’ll find Bob in the store tasting numerous beers brewed by beginners such as we. Bob tried 3 of our most recent brews, said we were coming along, and shared a few additional tips for some of the brews. We felt like we’d just gotten the gold star from the first grade teacher. The next group up to share their beer with Bob was a few fraternity brothers from an esteemed local university. They were excited because they felt like they were on to something amazing, something that would change the brewing world and change lives – they called it the Whisky Porter – I call it the ultimate frat brew. These brave gents began to detail to Bob their process. It started by brewing their best porter with the highest alcohol content (understood, they like high gravity beers), followed by a primary fermentation, then the addition of wood chips and finally a half handle of Maker’s Mark Whisky. That’s right, whisky. They pulled out their bottle and poured a glass for bob and offered me one as well. I respectfully declined due to concerns with their bottle sanitization (if anyone offers you a home brew with the previous brands paper label fully intact you can be sure they did not wash their bottles and some funky bacteria will mean a) you’ll get sick, b) the beer will taste really bad, or c) both a and b will occur). As Bob gently sipped the drink he was speechless for a moment. He muttered a few words about it being “way over the top” and something about “I generally like my beer to taste like beer, not whisky” and a few other constructive criticisms. Somehow the frat boys couldn’t believe that he wasn’t so impressed with it. I certainly couldn’t help but laugh inside. I respect their willingness to push the proverbial limits of alcohol while having no sense of sanitization but I also realize how many unfortunate souls will attempt to drink the Whisky Porter and will forever be scarred and forever pessimistic about the art of home brew. At least they’ll have a good story to tell when they run into people like me.