Jun 272008

Today is my first Fermentation Friday, the brainchild of Adam at Beer Bits 2, and I’ve been looking forward to it! Unfortunately, I had two wisdom teeth removed, so this is getting posted a bit late. That is my level of commitment to the beer blogging community – not even oral surgery and a tummy full of Vicodin can keep me down.

This month’s Fermentation Friday is being hosted by Travis over at CNYBrew – thanks for hosting, Travis, and I can’t wait to read everyone’s submissions.

I fear my entry might be on the boring side of the spectrum. I’ve had several brews which went bad, but only one I can think of where I created something I would call “crazy”. Until recently, I just didn’t have the space or equipment to brew the way I wanted, so every chance to brew was extremely valuable. I never wanted to waste a brewday experimenting too much. One night, however, a perfect storm of leftover ingredients and boredom gave birth to a Frankenbeer.

Question mark

What the....?

I had just mixed up a one gallon batch of Joe’s Ancient Orange mead (I’ll post an article with a recipe and process soon – it is an extremely easy and low maintenance way to start making mead).  I had an extra one gallon jug sitting around, and as I cleaned up from the mead session, I started wishing I could’ve brewed that night. At the time, I was still living in an apartment and making partial-mash beers on the stovetop. I was putting away some equipment when I saw some leftover DME and a half pound each of Crystal 40 and 2-row malt. I knew I had a pack of US-56 dry yeast in the freezer, so I got the bright idea to make a one gallon batch of mystery beer.

I cooked up my wort and went to the freezer where I thought I had some Hallertauer hops. When I realized I had used all my hops in my last batch, I didn’t know what to do. I knew I couldn’t brew this thing with no hops whatsoever, so I was about to toss the wort when inspiration struck (famous last words).

I had read about spices brewers used before hops were common. I just happened to have a bunch of rosemary sprigs sitting on my kitchen counter, so I figured, “why the heck not” (other famous last words). I added some rosemary at 60 and 15 minutes into the boil, chilled, and racked the wort into the jug. I clocked the gravity at 1.040, pitched the yeast, and went to bed.

The next day, the stuff was fermenting like crazy! I started thinking this might turn out to be a great beer! I would post my findings online and be heralded as a crazy and experimental brewer like Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head. I started preparing answers for the inevitable interviews from Brew Your Own and Zymurgy magazines. This was going to be cool!

Days passed. As the mead started smelling better and better, my freakshow brew started smelling worse. It kept fermenting and fermenting, and I started having some doubts. I told myself the slightly rank odor was just fermentation byproducts – after all, no beer really smells good when it’s fermenting. I posted my little experiment on a beer forum and got only one response:

Might make an excellent marinade for chicken.

Finally, the day came to try the concoction. I was filled with nervous anticipation as I poured a bit in a taster glass. I gave it a sniff – hmmm, it was a cross between rotten rosemary and old gym socks. I touched the glass to my lips, tipped it slightly, and…

…spat the nastiest stuff I had ever tasted into the sink. I quickly poured the rest of the “beer” down the drain as well, and threw away the jug for good measure. If I had been thinking clearly I would’ve buried it out in the Rockaways somewhere.

So there you have it – my first foray into “scrap brewing”. It didn’t turn out the way I planned, but I haven’t given up. I have plans to create a garlic brew in the near future – primarily for cooking, but who knows? It might just land me in BYO after all!