Thursday, June 20, 2013

Our career as brewmasters

I can't believe I never mentioned it, but Mr Charm and I once brewed our own beer. It was not bad either.
We got the idea from a neighbor and fellow graduate student. He made his own beer, due to being an impoverished graduate student. We were pretty poor ourselves, and had a couple of years more to go before Mr C got his PhD. We had tried hand rolling our own cigarettes, but it was tedious and hard to do. We bought a little machine to roll them with, tobacco, and cigarette paper. The hard part was getting the right amount of tobacco in each cigarette--and you'd be surprised how difficult that was, and in the end, more than we bargained for. So we got rid of the machine, the papers, the tobacco, and eventually, the habit of smoking.
But, back to the beer. We discovered that our local supermarket sold malted barley with hops. Yeast was also available, I can't remember what kind. You mixed the barley with the yeast, put it in a large crock, which we placed in the corner of the kitchen. I believe water was also involved, but I don't remember. Occasionally a burbling sound came from the crock, as if a frog had taken up residence in it. After a certain number of days, we strained it into washed soda bottles, which we capped with a bottle capping tool. You had to be careful pouring it out, as there was about a quarter-inch of sediment in the bottom. But it tasted okay, and we kept up making it for a while.
The problem was that this beer had a punch. Ordinary beer has about 6 percent alcohol, but ours had about 20 percent. Mr Charm found he could not drink it with his dinner and then prepare for the next day's classes, because he was pie-eyed. I didn't have to teach classes, but I just lurched around the kitchen, totally forgetting to put the kids to bed, or wash them, or remember I had them. So we stopped production.
As it happened, we were living in an old building at the bottom of a steep hill, which was divided into four apartments. Our fellow tenants were two old ladies with a cat and a dog, respectively, and the aforementioned graduate student and his family. The ladies felt that the young men should do all the heavy chores, taking to garbage up the hill, shoveling snow, etc. The men felt that the age of chivalry was over and that the ladies should hire someone to do the scutwork at least occasionally.
Now I have set the scene. well, not completely, because I forgot to mention that there was a capacious attic in which we stored things we were not using, including a case of the beer. Occasionally, we would hear the faraway sound of one of the bottles blowing up--but it was very far away. Perhaps it was a mouse, or the wind? Or just the house settling? We did not inquire.
After a couple of years we moved on, and moved away. We seriously planned to get rid of the beer, but one of the ladies made a cutting remark about the beer, and we got mad. We left it there.
I liked to think of the old ladies lying in bed and hearing the faraway explosion of the beer in the middle of the night. But the reality of the situation was that the college donated the building to the city, which turned it into a low income housing development. hrthe reamreality

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