Brewing with the Kids: Day 6

It occurred to me that I never got around to posting about my sixth and final brew/vacation/stay-at-home dad day.  For those of you who have been waiting with bated breath, I apologize.  I also don’t believe you.  But I appreciate your kind thoughts.  For those of you who just don’t care and wish I would stop writing, you can all go to hell…and stop reading.


I’m glad I wasn’t planning on catching up on any sleep this week.  Up at 6:30am again, coffee, morning news, send Tiffani off to work a little after 7am; pretty much like every other Friday.  At 7:30am I woke up Eleri to get ready for the last day of her Star Wars-themed church camp.  We left the house just after 8am (a little earlier than the last couple of days because she had so much fun the first two days that she invited a couple of friends to come along and I had to stop to pick them up). After registering Eleri’s friends and getting them all situated with the proper crew, I left Royersford and headed to my shop in Skippack.  I arrived at Bair & Bair around 9:30am, walked in, told the guys that I wasn’t there and then proceeded to put together the week’s bank deposits and cut paychecks for my employees.  I know, right?  I’m on vacation!  Shouldn’t that mean I don’t have to do payroll this week?  Apparently my employees disagreed, so there I was.  By 10:30am I had dropped my deposit at the bank and was on my way to Weak Knee Homebrew Supply in Pottstown.  If you’ve been following along you’ll remember that I covered Tiffani’s beer on Thursday with a piece of aluminum foil because I was short on stoppers for the carboy.  I knew that would suffice to keep bacteria out, but I was concerned with oxygen getting in.  I didn’t really think it would be an issue for the first couple of days since I knew the CO2 released during high krausen would blanket the beer, but I didn’t know how quickly that would dissipate and allow O2 to permeate during the following week while I let it sit to condition.  Half-an-hour after I left the bank I was inside Weak Knee getting a few more #10 pre-drilled stoppers and a couple new airlocks (never hurts to have extras).  Of course it took me about 2 minutes to get what I came for and 20 minutes more to walk around and consider whether or not I absolutely had to have this, that or the other thing.  Fortunately my better sense (and empty wallet) prevailed and I left with only what I came for.  Then, from Pottstown, it was back to Royersford to pick the kids up at noon.  I arrived at the church, rounded up Eleri and her friends, took some last pictures of them together with various Star Wars characters and got in the van.  About 15 minutes later we were pulling out of the parking lot.  The volunteers and police did an amazing job getting people into the parking lot in an orderly fashion.  Not so much getting us back out again.  It was a little after 1pm by the time I made it to Norristown and home.

Finally it was time to start brewing.  At the beginning of the week I had the grandiose idea that I would brew an AG and an extract batch on Friday.  It didn’t happen.  Did I mention that the kids and I were leaving the next morning to go camping for the weekend…and nothing had been packed yet?  One all-grain hefeweizen was all I had the energy for.  If I had attempted to do both beers simultaneously I would have made myself miserable and taken all of the joy out of it.  The actual brewing went smoothly although I did notice, both with Tiffani’s witbier and my hefeweizen, that my efficiency completely tanks with wheat-heavy beers.  I do not know if that is a result of the no-sparge method, the fact that my only filtration is a kettle screen or something related to the wheat itself.  With Tiffani’s witbier we did add a pound of rice hulls; with the hefeweizen I did not, but they both came in about 8 points below their targeted pre-boil gravities so further research will be needed.  Neither beer got much in the way of hops, so I didn’t even bother adjusting the little bit of bittering to nail specific IBUs, but I can see how it could be an issue if I do an American Wheat.

During each phase of the brewing that I wasn’t actively doing a brewing-related task, I was going in and out of the basement gathering together all of the camping supplies.  I already had the tent and the 10’x10′ quick set canopy in the van.  I spent the time sorting through the cooking and eating utensils, loading the box of citronella candles, ponchos, firewood, charcoal and coolers.  A lot of what I have is the same stuff I have used for the last 30 years, so I also made a list of what was missing and/or needed to be replaced.  In between brewing and organizing, I managed to get everything ready and finished up by the time Tiffani came home from work.  By the end of the day I had packed up the van for a weekend camping trip, kept my kids alive for another week, hosted my FIL from out of town, drove Eleri and her friends to and from bible camp and finished 6 consecutive days of brewing.  Lots of things went wrong and lots of adjustments needed to be made, but that was pretty much the point.  Home brewing doesn’t require a block of dedicated time to get it all done.  We have become so conditioned to working within such a specific time frame that we lose sight of the fact that many aspects of the brewing process actually allow for significant leeway.  I certainly don’t recommend going through all that I did as “best practices,” but I do hope that some of you will look at the various challenges I encountered and the allowances I made to get through them and realize that “I’m just too busy” doesn’t need to be a part of your brewing vocabulary anymore.  If it’s important to you, you can certainly find the time, even if it’s spread out over the course of a full day or two.

Happy brewing!