I swear this batch of beer is cursed!

Well, I’ve been a bad blogger.  I said I’d be blogging all the time now that I’m on winter break, but I just missed two days in a row!

I have done some writing during that time.  In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions and changes, I wrote a Running Shorts piece about how I hate the idea of people thinking that buying a Wii Fit (or any piece of exercise equipment) is going to make all the difference to get them in shape.  I didn’t realize it was anything special, but it got a huge response!  Funny how that happens.  It got picked up by rawstory.com, which sent tons of traffic, including a few haters, so that was fun.  I’d be really interested to know how you guys feel about it.

A doomed batch of English strong ale

You might remember that a few weeks ago I brewed a batch of beer.  It doesn’t really have much to do with running or being vegetarian, but I figured some of you might be interested anyway.   Plus it’s the holidays, so who doesn’t like a post about drankin’?

At first, everything went according to plan.  After sanitizing everything — an absolute must in homebrewing — I started off by steeping some specialty grains in hot water.

[steeping grains photo]

This adds some extra flavor and color to the beer.  Then comes adding the malt extract — this provides most of the sugar that the yeast will eat and turn into alcohol and carbonation.

[malt extract photo]

Serious homebrewers extract the sugars from the barley themselves; I choose to get mine canned, as do most beginner/intermediate homebrewers.

Then everything is boiled for a little while, with hops (my favorite part!) added intermitently.  They’re just a type of flower, but for convenience they are crushed and formed into pellets.  They smell awesome.

[hops photo]

After everything is done, the brew (called the wort at this stage) is cooled down quickly in an ice bath, so that the fourth and final ingredient, the yeast, can be added and not die in the heat.

[yeast photo]

Then everything is poured back and forth to aerate it a bit then sealed off, and you’re done!

[homebrew photo]

Everything is supposed to sit nicely like this for a week, at which point it’s transferred to another fermenter.  But…

[beer disaster photo]

This disaster happened!  (More details about what happened here.)

I was worried that the beer would be contaminated after having been exposed to air like this, but I tasted it again after a few days and everything seemed fine.

Fast forward three weeks to… bottling day!

I transferred the beer from the secondary fermenter to the bottling bucket, balancing the bottling bucket on 1000 Vegan Recipes because the spigot overhangs the bottom of the bucket.  (This is no slight against the book — if anything it’s a testament to its thickness.)

[beer transfer photo]

But then Disaster #2 happened.  The hose fell out of the bucket and beer poured all over the kitchen floor and the pages of 1000 Vegan Recipes.

Then I smelled something.  Something warm and full of holiday goodness.  Fudge!  But why, I wondered, would I smell fudge?  I was boiling some corn sugar in water to feed the yeast once more before I bottled them up (this provides extra carbonation in the bottle), so I figured perhaps the sugar was scorching.  Upon closer inspection, I realized that I had turned on the wrong burner, and — Disaster #3 — the fudge that Erin had made and left to cool a few days ago was liquidfied!

(Erin, if you’re reading this at work, let’s try to keep that holiday cheer up and remember that we all make mistakes 🙂 )

[fudge on stove photo]

And some mini-cupcakes that Christine (of Sweet-Tooth Friday fame) had made barely avoided a fiery death.

[burnt cupcakes photo]

At last, normalcy resumed and Christine and I bottled the beer.  I took a final hydrometer reading and have determined that the alcohol content in the beer is about 5.5%, right on target.  And it actually tastes pretty good, considering the disasters and the fact that it hasn’t bottle-conditioned yet.

[bottling beer photo]

I should be able to start drinking it in a week or so (which puts me right in line for a New Year’s eve own-beer induced buzz).  Is there a better way to start the New Year?

Don’t forget to check out my Running Shorts piece!  And have a Merry Christmas!



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  1. I read the Running Shorts piece. Although I agree completely with what your said, I can understand how some might find the piece…condescending.

  2. haha I’m surprised it’s turning out so well! That’s a good sign!

    I hope you bottled this a week or two ago! It’ll be awesome for your holiday party:)

    My husband and I are enjoying our winter warmer right now. It’s awesome.
    .-= Diana @ frontyardfoodie´s last blog ..Appetite =-.

  3. Yikes! These pics of the beer would make my husband cry! I totally think this batch is cursed! You almost burned down your kitchen!

    I read your piece too. I completely agree with you. You were straight forward (even with the title). People like things sugar coated, and you got right to the point. The only upset people are the ones who are trying to use those video games to loose weight, and they know you’re right!!
    .-= Nicole @ Geek Turned Athlete´s last blog ..Costa Cruise 2009: Madeira, Portugal =-.

  4. So is it Vat Vomit Ale or Frumoffadafloor Lager. Or wait maybe it’s just Vomit Frumoffadafloor Beer. All one batch? Note to self – think twice before accepting beer from Matt at post run parties.

    Glad you’ve salvaged something drinkable after all that. Merry Christmas!

  5. WOW! I never knew making beer was so much work. I’m tired just reading about it 🙂 Let us know how it tastes on new years. I’m going to read your other post now. Thanks for the heads up!
    .-= Erica´s last blog ..Chocolate Covered Pretzels =-.

  6. PS- Merry Christmas 🙂
    .-= Erica´s last blog ..Chocolate Covered Pretzels =-.

  7. If nothing else, this will make a good story to tell while drinking the beer on New Year’s eve. 😉
    I read the running shorts piece and loved it. I was talking to a co-worker who sided on the “it’s a good way for inactive people to get active”, and I can understand this point of view. But I think your point still stands. (also, I doubt many of those people who use it as an intro to exercise ever actually transition to real exercise)

    Happy Holidays!
    .-= Matt´s last blog ..Confessions of a winter runner… =-.

  8. Wow- it just wasn’t your day :/ Is your cookbook ruined? I loved the article and completely agree- there’s no “easy” way to get in shape.

    Happy holidays!
    .-= Danielle (Coffee Run)´s last blog ..Tips & Tricks =-.

  9. Great ending to a disaster filled brewing!
    .-= Heather @ Get Healthy With Heather´s last blog ..Black Rice =-.

  10. A week? Wow…save some for 6 months from now. It will taste WAY better, I guarantee!

    You should buy a cornelius keg – they are relatively cheap, you can keg your beer instead of bottling it, and if you are bottling it makes the process WAY easier than trying to use gravity (plus you get to use all the wort.)

    Do you reuse your yeast or buy a new package every time? I used to start with my lighter beers and move up in darkness and thickness from batch to batch so that my yeast would be reused at least 5-6 times (usually around a dozen) – saves a lot of money and makes things easier.

    Usually I’d just brew on the same day I racked or bottled my beer so that I wouldn’t have to store anything…the advantage of having 2-3 batches going at a time. (This also made it easier to wait 4-8 months before drinking the beer after bottling, which meant the beer always tasted good!)

    And yeah, when I was brewing regularly I talked about it on my running blog too.

  11. I thought your piece represented a good side to the argument, but of course there’s always going to be many sides.

    I bought a Wii Fit a couple years ago and it did kick start my exercise regimen again (I’d been pretty out of shape for a couple years previous). However, I was never largely overweight nor uninterested in conventional exercise. I’ve always been very inclined toward physical activity, I was just going through a slump. I doubt that for most exercise-haters the Wii Fit would help them make a transition – it definitely didn’t for my lazy boyfriend ;).

    I haven’t used my Wii Fit for exercise in almost a year because I infinitely prefer real activity and for a video game, the Wii Fit really isn’t that “fun”. It pretty much exists as a scale for me at this point.
    .-= Jess´s last blog ..Life in a tree =-.

  12. Matt – I so agree with your piece on Wii Fit but, as you know, I have many friends who disagree. The moms love controversy so…

    My ex brewed/still brews beer. We had on fermenter explode in the upstairs of our house. Your explosion looks minor. I was cleaning the ceiling for weeks as I would find some after I thought I had gotten it all.

    And, Blaine is correct! Give that beer a couple, six months in the bottle and you will love it!!!
    .-= Nicki´s last blog ..Christmases 1985-1987 =-.

  13. Matt, Alison told me that yesterday was your birthday too! Happy belated birthday!
    .-= Jess in NYC´s last blog ..New Year =-.

  14. i honestly had NO idea beer brewing was so complicated and had so many steps – props to you sir!

  15. Tehehehe sounds like my kind of kitchen-tastrophe! From all that I’ve heard, it sounds like beer is very tricky to brew. Much more difficult than making homemade wine, apparently.
    .-= Sagan´s last blog ..Perspective Adjustment =-.

  16. Haha…everyone has those days of serious catastrophes. I’ll bet the beer will still come out amazing. 😀

  17. How much did you lose before you realized it was pouring out all over the floor? Doesn’t sound like too much.

  18. How much did you lose before you realized it was pouring out all over the floor? Doesn’t sound like too much.
    .-= Caleb´s last blog ..Nine reasons to go RAW, and simple ways to include raw food into your diet =-.

    • Caleb, I think I only lost a few ounces. I started with five gallons and ended up with just under 4.5. This is due mostly to the foam issues I had in the beginning, I think.

      I really think it’s going to turn out well though!

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