This is an episode of the Living Proof Brew Cast.
We started off with a little bit of catch up as I had been traveling since the last episode, to Brussels and Paris again followed by the Eastern Shore of Maryland. John described the shop (which I suspect is Ye Old Spirit Shop) near Flying Barrel where he picked up the beer he brought to taste, the Nice Chouffe from La Chouffe. This is their dark winter beer. John mentioned they also make Urthel Hop It but that is actually from Brouwerij De Leyerth. I brought another Flying Dog, speaking of Flying Barrel, to taste, this time their Wildeman which is a hybrid like the Hop It but of a farmhouse ale with an IPA. Here is the video that has the correct pronunciation of the beer’s name. I mentioned a couple of other Flying Dog beers I’ve had since the last episode, the Gonzo and Road Dog porters.
We chatted a bit more about work, following on for the reason I was out at the Eastern Shore, for an annual retreat. One of the more enjoyable aspects of going there was spending time with my coworkers in a different milieu. As we discussed last time, we are both lucky to work in a place where there is a better than average appreciation of beer. That figured into our evenings at the retreat with a very well stocked beer fridge to accompany games, movies, meals and great conversations in our evening hours.
We wandered back into talking some more about farmhouse ales, of which the Wildeman does an excellent job representing along with the other half of its admixture. I explain how surprising I found this given how strong Flying Dog’s house hop style is. We chatted about what the farmhouse funk puts us in mind of, how it really does evoke the senses and experience of work and rest on a farm.
We also expanded on what little questing I got to do while traveling. I wasn’t able to find anything particularly crazy, enjoying a Chimay Blue followed by an Orval, both of them brown ales. I was confused when we recorded but with the benefit of the Internet can correctly say the golden ale my companion had was the Duvel. In Paris I didn’t get back to Cafe Martini but did treat my coworker to an excellent evening at Le Devez where she ordered a wonderful wine the name of which I never knew. It was a white which surprised me as I tend to favor the reds. John related my liking of red wine closely to the notes in beer I toward which I tend to gravitate. We spent some more time appreciating the equal depth of appreciation to be found in wine as well as beer.
We moved from there into one of our main topics, what it was in our experience that kept us brewing when so often the first experience many who try it have is so bad. I explained a conversation I had recently that echoed with many others I’ve had on this topic. A lot of people have told me how they tried to brew when young, in particular in college, with bad results due to the lack of experience and the rough environment for keeping the right level of fastidiousness needed to make beer well.
The first batch of mead I made was a similar experience so I teased out what it was that made me come back to it so early on to find success from the second batch onward. One idea is the desire to make something that we otherwise cannot find out in the world. This meshed well with John’s own early experiences, especially his first reading on the topic first Sam Calagione’s “Extreme Brewing” and then Randy Mosher’s “Radical Brewing.” John’s first result was better despite some messy incidents along the way. I realized why John is still nervous to this day about the jump when bringing a wort up to boil.
I explained a little bit more about that fateful second batch of mead in the context of making a brewed product that was even more rare than the still limited selection of meads available today. My college roommate had a large, heavy glass bell jar that we used to excellent effect as a primary. This may still unconsciously inform my bias towards glass vessels in brewing. My early mead making also served to highlight how key access to knowledge, practical and theoretical, is to being successful early on.
John offered an excellent label for another thing that keeps us both brewing, that participation in kitchen magic. John deftly identified that it is the astonished pride of being part of the magical experience that is a strong pull back in. He expanded too on the role of knowledge but also the explorer’s heart to make and re-make discoveries even when the access to information is thin or entirely absent. He also put his finger on the deep historical roots which I complemented by suggesting that brewing is also infinitely timely, being remade generation after generation to reflect tastes and trends.
Chooch explained how to give cheers in Wales.
We shifted to our second main topic which has the practical application of knowledge and how we come by that in common with our first topic. John told this great story about Benjamin Franklin’s science-informed trick of calming water with a small measure of oil and how that relates to using a dash of hops for their oils to help prevent the pre-boil jump.
A Kickstarter recently concluded successfully that sought funding to assemble a documentary of a similarly knowledgeable luminary in the worlds of beer and spirits, Michael Jackson, using material from his television series, Beer Hunter, and some additional footage recorded towards the end of his life. We each shared our first exposure to Jackson’s writing and work. This led us to talk of a contemporary and a similarly integral figure, especially in homebrewing, Charlie Papazian. John surprised me by explaining how Charlie’s early writing was shared explicitly as an open work, really typifying the spirit of sharing that is so deeply woven into the world of homebrewing. I had only noted that the documentary will be openly sourced.
You can grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.
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