It has been kind of a rough week what with my father in-law dying, arrangements to be made, the kids to tend, the house to prepare for family and friends coming in from out of town to pay their final respects, and the myriad other bits of minutiae that come with the logistical and emotional considerations of a memorial service. On top of the already difficult preparations of memorial services is the fact that we were supposed to leave on a family vacation to Orlando yesterday which had to be postponed until tomorrow so not only are we preparing for a memorial service, we’re packing for vacation. We had thought about canceling it outright, but thought better of it because it will give the kids a needed distraction and Mrs. Sniper sure as hell could use the rest herself. Of course, being in a car for 14 hours one way with three kids (the eldest is of age and chose not to go) is not really my idea of a vacation; it’s more of a “this is for all of those things you did to your parents when you were growing up” sort of punishment that we must all endure if we endeavor to take a road trip with our children.
When we take road trips, I pretty much demand that I drive. I don’t know what it is (probably my control-freak nature) that makes me do this, but I do. This is not exactly relaxing for me, but it is something that I need to do because my wife’s driving makes me nervous. Don’t get me wrong; she isn’t all over the road or going way too fast or way too slow and she certainly isn’t on the level of sheer, terror-inducing road rage that our friend Nicki is on (don’t ever get in a car with Nicki: you will crap your pants. I have been in combat and driven under fire and it still wasn’t nearly as nerve-wracking as driving with Nicki. Seriously.), but I am edgy when she drives just the same. So while she relaxes as much as is possible in the passenger seat with three school age kids behind her, I will be at the helm and not relaxing. So I relax today.
Brewing beer is a Zen like activity for me. I feel a strange calm that comes over me when I brew that helps me deal with relate to the rest of the world. The home brewer’s mantra of “Relax. Don’t worry. Have a home brew.” is so true and I don’t even have to have the home brew to do it: I just have to brew it. So in preparation for a day of pre-trip preparation, night of memorial services, and a full day+ of driving, I am brewing beer as a means of meditation before things get crazy.
Today’s beer is a Chinook IPA. For those of you that aren’t as familiar with beer terminology, an IPA is an India Pale Ale. It is a hoppier, more potent version of a pale ale. They call it an India Pale Ale because when the British were in India, they needed their usual rations of beer which had to be shipped from England and the beer was in peril of spoiling on the long trip so the brewers upped the alcohol content and added a lot more hops because hops are a natural preservative. The brew became popular in India among the troops and when they came home they demanded the same kind of beer they had been drinking in India and so a new style was born. It is called a Chinook IPA because I will only be using Chinook hops in the process. I do this for two reasons: 1) I like Chinook hops and they are very versatile, and 2) although I am a huge fan of IPA’s with various other hops included, I think it is wholly appropriate to use only Chinook hops in this beer in honor of the men that lost their lives in that Chinook in Wardak, Afghanistan. When I say “this brew is for you”, I mean it. Some people might think it disrespectful to brew for a memorial, but I know enough SEALs to know that they would think it was an entirely appropriate homage to their memory.
11 pounds of grain in the mash/lauter tun waiting for some hot water.
A better view of the whole mash/lauter tun.
My modified keg that serves as a hot liquor tank and boil kettle heating up the water to a strike temp of 152 degrees.
Mashing. In case you didn’t know, mashing is steeping grains in hot water to get the enzymes to convert the starches in the grain into fermentable sugars called “maltose”.
The mash is now drained off into the boil kettle and more water is added to the grain to rinse off any fermentable sugars that were left over. This is a process called “sparging”.
The bittering hops and the mash boiling together in a liquid that is now called “wort” (pronounced “wert”) where it will boil for an hour. The finishing hops will be added 15 minutes and one minute before the boil ends and later I will add hops to the secondary fermentation vessel (dry hopping).
This will be ready in two-three weeks. Five gallons of liquid tribute soon to be on tap.
Oh, and here is my garage/brewery/pub. The keggerator on the left is complete and has three taps with room for four five-gallon kegs inside. The one on the right is in the process of being built and will have four taps. All climate controlled, of course. And yes, I built them.