30 Minutes of Work, 3 Hours of Drinking
I was going to spend this post ranting about my loathing of brunch, comparing it to that scene in Reservoir Dogs where the cop gets his ear cut off by Mr. White; that is brunch for me. But I don’t want to waste a post. Rather, I’d like to spend this one talking about a universal object that’s “proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” (Fun Fact: people attribute this quote to Ben Franklin but there’s no evidence he actually said it).
My appreciation for the amber liquid actually started at a young age, an age that probably would have landed me in protective services if anyone found out. My parents just finished hosting a part, solo cups littered around the tables and chairs. I guess I was curious about what was in them, or liked the taste, or maybe just needed something to drink, because my three-year-old self started downing the half-empty receptacles like your average frat boy. I must have been one or two in before my concerned parents finally realized what was happening and swooped in, halting my alcoholic, childish rampage.
Fast forward to college because I didn’t drink during high school. We could even fast forward through college, as it doesn’t have too much of an impact on my beer besides my time studying in Dublin. My interaction was limited to Keystone and Natty Light, Boxer and Beer 30 (blegh).
My appreciation for beers hit a high note right after graduating college. I was unemployed, wallowing at home with my parents while working part-time at Eastern Mountain Sports. Things weren’t looking too good. So my dad threw it out there: let’s pick up a hobby, let’s brew together. I never told him this, but that hobby kept me sane during some dark months of my life. The ability to make something that others can enjoy, to combine recipes and make something truly unique, really pushed my imagination and interest in brewing as a whole. And since my dad is a pharmaceutical engineer, our gear was all pharma grade and looked like it came right out of Breaking Bad. My dad is more of the scientific bent, measuring ABV, alcohol content, and other number stuff I don’t understand. Me, I more throw shit together and hope I get a good brew from it. Turns out, and my dad hates this about my brewing technique, that my method usually trumps his own (sorry, Dad).
I then took my technique with me to DC, bringing Packy into the fold of amateur brewers. He took to it as enthusiastically as I did, if not more. He described brewing in the best way possible, which is the title of this post. Calling ourselves the Gingham Brothers (see below), we always joked about starting our own brewery but were ten years too late. So far, between brewing with my dad in Philly and Packy in DC, I’ve made everything from Citra Pale Ales and Maple Bacon Stouts, to Pomegranate Wheats and dry-hopped Imperial IPA’s, catering to a wide range of palettes.
Which finally brings me to the main story of this post.
Last weekend I was invited by a friend of mine to participate in a Sweet 16 blind taste test. The rules were pretty simple: bring two six packs of your favorite beer, cover the labels, and submit it to the bracket. Two beers went up against each other, with everyone voting for their favorite brew; the winner went on to the next round, the loser had to reveal their beer. Two days before, I headed to Trader Joe’s to pick my submission, and man, did I go with a dark horse. If this was the NCAA, my beer was the Florida Gulf Coast of the Big Dance. I found my gem while walking down the aisles, at a loss for what I wanted to submit. Do I pick an IPA to blow up everyone’s taste buds? Or go with a more palatable wheat? And then I found it: Nametag Lager. $3.95/6 pack.
Time to shake this competition up a bit.
I showed up, my bag filled with red-duct-taped cans of destruction. Everyone was talking about how confident they were in their beer, about how far they were gonna go, how there was no way they could lose. I stood off to the side, keeping my opinions to myself because, come on, how the hell was my equivalent of Two Buck Chuck going to win?
Well, I didn’t expect to make it all the way to the Final Four, that’s for sure.
Yes, you read that correctly. My SFCU submission beat a great-tasting, sweeter brew in the first round by a narrow margin. It then went on to tie a great sour submission, with the winner decided by a single cup flip off. I couldn’t believe it. How the hell was I winning this? Was it because everyone’s taste buds were shot from the grassy IPA’s? Or was it the sour beer that came in to decimate their taste buds? Either way, I was winning and it was hilarious. My friends at the party couldn’t believe it either, especially since one of them was up against me in the final four. It was his beer, an amazing, dry, slightly spicy stout (may be the best stout I’ve ever had) that sounded the death knell for my Cinderella story. It was a good run.
So while I woke up that morning, slightly hungover, I still felt like a champion.
And with that, Sláinte!
Beer I drank – The Waldos’ Special Ale by Lagunitas Brewing Company
Book I read – Cool Gray City of Love by Gary Kamiya