OK, so I like a bad pun now and then.
But not anywhere near as much as I like brewing beer with Shawn.
I am a lifelong kitchen tinkerer. I gain immense satisfaction from cooking a good meal. My momma raised me to be an improvisational cook, creative in the kitchen, and there is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment that comes from combining flavors successfully. Well, there are probably plenty of creative processes that produce a very similar feeling of accomplishment. But cooking is arguably what I am best at, and the pleased-with-myself feeling that comes from making something good, paired with the ability to use that something to bring nourishment and pleasure to those around me is one of my favorite things in life.
My boyfriend is a great lover of food (a quality not to be taken for granted), but not much of a cook. He is also a great lover of beer. For his birthday a couple of years back, I got him a basic homebrew kit — bucket and carboy and hoses, the little thing to read original gravity, etc., along with an ingredients kit to make his very own IPA. A friend got him a book about homebrewing, and he read it cover to cover, returning to relevant chapters as brewing plans came together, much the way I pore over new cookbooks. The homebrew kit did exactly what I’d hoped: Shawn got excited about this great kitchen craft. He started dreaming about varieties of hops the way I dream about summer produce, started scheming about malts, yeast packets, spices. It does my heart good to see him making one of his favorite things, and I love playing assistant, stirring malt-goo in a big pot, four inches of foam breaking just before it spills over the edge, sinking down. Perhaps more importantly, I like beer. From where I’m sitting, it’s a win-win-win: I get to see my wonderful boyfriend engaging in a process strikingly similar to one of my all-time favorite pastimes, we get to be in the kitchen together, which I treasure beyond words, and we get like five gallons of beer out of every batch.
Despite our shared love of beer and brewing, Shawn and I have somewhat different tastes. I love trippels, cream ales, ambers. He loves crazy, dank IPAs, the hoppier the better. We brewed a cocoa nib and vanilla porter a few weeks ago that is currently in its second ferment and that we will surely both love in the fall and winter when the air is cool again and the beer has had time to mellow. To accomodate our different tastes, Shawn has obtained a couple of extra carboys over the last few months so that we can overlap our brewing. We have yet to do any all grain beers or even to cobble together our own scratch recipes. We’re still working from kits, but experimentings with additions (like the cocoa nibs and vanilla). Tonight, we are working on one of my brews: A cream ale with ginger and cardamom, which should be ready in about four weeks. We’re hopeful that the spices will be refreshing additions to our take on a summer beer.
For those interested in brewing, we used the Brewer’s Best American Cream Ale kit, adding 1/4 cup fresh sliced ginger and about a teaspoon of cardamom seeds out of their pods to the boil at 15 minutes. I’ll report back on whether these quantities are too spare, overly cloying, or just right. Fingers crossed for the latter.
Anyone interested in swapping homebrews, give a holler. For nonbrewing friends, consider earning yourself a sixpack or two by schlepping over here and bottling it yourself.