Libations: What are you gonna brew about it?
My father hates craft beer. “I can’t stand how they put coffee in all of it,” he’ll shudder, while drinking an amber ale.
He’s not a fan of hard liquor, either. It once took minutes of convincing for him to drink celebratory shots of Southern Comfort with me. Granted, people usually balk at the opportunity to chug caramel-flavored whiskey, but nothing with “Comfort” in its name is ever going to hurt you on purpose.
And that’s why when he requested a homebrew kit for Christmas, I was a little taken aback. I knew he wasn’t going to turn into Samuel Adams overnight, so a Mr. Beer six-step kit seemed most appropriate.
My first encounter with Mr. Beer was perusing the Lands End Christmas catalog as a child, fascinated that if you ate all your peas and didn’t discretely play Gameboy until midnight, Santa would deliver you alcohol. This year, in a way, it all came full circle when Amazon accidentally sent me two kits when I ordered dad’s gift. What was I supposed to do, return the spare? By the time I get through the line at the post office, the beer is already fully fermented. I’m not the one with the moral imperative here; Jeff Bezos is fine without my $49.
I learned I’m no scientist, but with the Mr. Beer brewing package, I can at least pretend to be a failed one.
Mr. Beer circumvents the Einsteining part of beermaking with a “hopped brewing extract” — a soupy, canned mixture that lets you avoid the tedium of measuring barley and hay and whatever the hell else goes into that golden delight. Mix it along with some cool, clear Aspen tap water into the provided plastic keg or your favorite Camelback for optimal results.
The most difficult part was creating the wort, or as I call it, the worst.
My $3 Target can opener was unable to penetrate the lid of the goopy extract, but per the directions I had water boiling to mix it with, so time was of the essence.
I went into the hall. Buried under snowboards and skis in the locker was my camping backpack, way too heavy for an out-of-shape townie who is scared of midsummer thunderstorms, but which carried a manual pocketknife can opener.
I got to work on the wort, carving away at the lid centimeters at a time, imagining myself a bold member of the Swiss Army — being neutral, upholding treaties, putting holes in cheese and whatnot.
The process seemed idiot-proof while reading the instructions; turns out they were proof I’m an idiot.
“Open from the bottom”? Pretty sure I missed that. I flipped the can over to reveal shallow, friendly ridges for the opener to latch onto.
I have no delusions about how the final product will taste; re-boiling the same pot of water three times because you’re too slow in following the other steps is bound to affect the flavor in some way, right?
Mr. Beer graduated to Prof. Beer that day, but will it all be for naught? Assuming my former TV stand-turned gear closet is cooler than 72 degrees in temperature, I should have 3 gallons — or one weekend’s worth — of Bavarian Weissbier ready for consumption in six weeks. Join me in a future Libations page as I sample a flight of this witches’ brew.
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What makes a great winery? Well, that depends on your goal.