The Starter Kit

Bev Blackwood - A homebrew adventure.

Dear Lord, please spare me the trials of the “starter kit!”I was honored to join the next generation of brewers today at Rice University to brew a batch of beer.I wasn’t especially clear what the plan was when I agreed… Turns out it was to help them brew a batch of beer in the presence of interested parties and discuss the particulars of the beer style being brewed which was an American Pale Ale.They had (on my recommendation) purchased a deluxe starter kit (including the partial mash plus extract recipe) from our local homebrew shop. I (wisely, I like to think) brought along some “extras” of my own to ensure a pleasant brew evening.I love my LHBS (Local Home Brew Shop) and consider the owner one of my best friends… But shouldn’t a five-gallon recipe have maybe a seven-gallon pot to boil in?

It has been long enough since I last made a partial mash kit that I had to refer to the instructions to be sure I was doing it right, even so I was grateful for a second pot, and then a third (which also doubled as a lid for my ten gallon kettle.) You can never have enough pots, lids, burners, sanitizer, wash water, horizontal surfaces… The list goes on and on.I have dedicated wrenches, dedicated scissors, a table, towels, and a plethora of other brewing accouterments acquired over nearly 20 years of brewing.You never know what will come in handy.Even so, today I needed to improvise a bit.Our faucet required a special “key” to function.I had to deal with my first plastic brewing bucket…ever!All while trying to show the new kids how it’s done!Thank goodness there was beer!

In keeping with the theme of our brew event, they had purchased a few American pale ales.They started with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.THE pale ale that started it all for pretty much everyone.This beer has actually improved over the years.There’s no “it used to be better” about this beer.When I visited the brewery in Chico a few years back, they were on the cusp of starting to can this classic and a trip into their hop room is a visit to hop heaven.Their commitment to fresh ingredients, fresh beer and a solid distribution channel has their beer arriving fresher than ever and delicious.It’s beautifully balanced, with just enough hops to counterbalance the malt and that Cascade bite and aroma that defines the style.We also had a soon-to-be Texas beer (with Colorado origins) Dale’s Pale Ale, also an innovator, one of the first canned craft beers in the US, which was equally tasty, albeit with a much lighter and brighter malt profile.Here the hops were out front, bitter and backed up by a pale malt presence that’s not as rich as Sierra Nevada’s but still works well.

With my ten gallon pot, I managed to only barely scorch the malt extract (oops) and an hour and a half later we had a fresh batch of homebrew in the brew bucket with me leaving anxious instructions to call if it wasn’t bubbling on Monday, to be sure it didn’t blow the lid off on Tuesday and to leave it alone if it was fermenting along happily anytime thereafter.Who knows?In a week or so, we should have some beer ready to be bottled up!The real joy of the evening was talking with a bunch of brewers in training, explaining how it works and sharing my brewing stories with them.However, next time I brew there, I’m bringing my own equipment.

The Author:

Bev Blackwood II is the Southwest Brewing News Contributing Editor for Texas and has been covering Texas beers for 17 years An award winning home brewer, Bev has also brewed professionally at St. Arnold Brewing Company and was part of the team that brought home Saint Arnold’s first Great American Beer Festival gold medal in 2007. A long time member of Houston’s premiere homebrew club, the Foam Rangers, Bev teaches their Beer Judge Certification Program course and has also taught at Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.

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