Adventures In Home Brewing, Part One










Last July, I was driving down my street, headed to a dentist appointment. I saw a neighbor and two other relatively young men sitting in a  camp chairs around a deep fat fryer. Odd, I thought, because who fries a turkey in July. But, as I was running a tad late, I couldn’t stop to investigate. However, when I returned (cavity-less, no less) 90 minutes later, they will still there. I quickly pulled into my driveway, barely getting the car parked, and skipped down four houses to satisfy my curiosity. Indeed, no turkey…they were BREWING BEER.  My interest in beer had been growing for some time, having been thoroughly entranced by the book, The Brewmaster’s Table by Garrett Oliver.





I had even gotten my first level Cicerone certification (Certified Beer Server…I have the pin to prove it). They were just ending the afternoon’s festivities, but Ben promised he would holler over when they were to brew again. True to his word, a month later, I was sitting in Ben’s driveway waiting for the magic.


Ben, sitting in his driveway.

I was fascinated, snapping photographs and scribbling notes in my journal, trying to remember every detail. We drank beer and even tasted some of Ben’s homemade dandelion wine.




I was hooked, but in a quandary as well. I started reading brewing books, but found myself stymied when it came time to purchase the necessary equipment.  The move to Louisville, CO brought us closer to our friends Chris and Carolyn. Carolyn is a skilled cheese maker and fermenter of all sorts of things and her husband was not only interested in brewing, but also had a brother who had been brewing for quite some time and would lend us advice and some used equipment. Chris ordered what we needed and then we discovered the Lafayette Homebrew Supply (George Otteni, owner, and purchased the last of our supplies there.


Fellow brewer, Chris. And you can tell by his pose that he leads a life of danger.








I had always wanted to do an ESB (Extra Special Bitter), one of my first favorite beer styles, thanks to the fine folks at Fuller’s. I even had the name…ABD ESB. An inside joke as I had left a doctoral program before finishing my dissertation, a somewhat painful consequence when, after 34 years, I decided to leave the field of education.


I sComplete-Joyhould also mention the invaluable assistance provided by Charlie Papazian, although I have never met him. This is Charlie.  This is Charlie’s book which to this day I keep close by at all times. Of course, we have a small house, but nevertheless…

21 dog-eared pages and countless underlines…

Chris arrived at my house around 1:00 pm. We, home brewers like casual start times (at least Chris and I do). We were fidgeting around, getting everything perfect, running back to the brew store to pick up some things we had forgotten, so we didn’t actually “flame on” until 3:00 pm and transferred the 5 gallons of elixir to the fermenter at 6:00 pm. It would stay in the fermenter for two weeks and then finish in the bottle for another week or so.












Leap forward in time to May 2nd, 2014 and we have only one bottle remaining of that very first brew. Our friends and relatives are surprised by how good it tastes.

Much has happened as we have picked up neighbors and friends. Yesterday we bottled our fourth brew, a double IPA and completed our fifth brew, a Russian Imperial Stout, and are planning the move from extract and steeping grains to all grain brewing. Much more to reflect on in the coming weeks.


The other guy…








Photo Credits


Brewmaster’s Table

Garrett Oliver

Charlie Papazian

Joy Of Homebrewing

Pumpkick Spiced Seasonal Ale by New Belgium Brewing


When I sit down to write one of these reviews, it is with the best of intentions that I write solely about the beer. But other thoughts just keep popping up like one of those whack-a-mole games.









(This is not the author)

As Robert Burns once wrote,                                                                                The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men                                                        Gang aft agley,

Now it’s only in the last couple of years that my palate has accepted fruit beers (along with olives, strong cheeses, and cooked cauliflower). I won’t, anytime soon, be leaping over barbed wire fences to obtain one, but I can nevertheless appreciate a well-made one.Steve_McQueen_motorcycle_jump_fence




(This is also not the author)

On a related note, I have nothing against the members of cucurbita pepo. I like roasted acorn squash, sautéed zucchini, and the occasional piece of my own pumpkin cheesecake (to die for, naturally). However, as cooler weather sets in with the coming of autumn, I feel obligated to do at least one seasonal brew and I appreciate the vast number of fine brews created by New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, CO, which is just an hour away if you drive like my wife. So today’s review focuses on Pumpkick Spiced Seasonal Ale from New Belgium Brewing.


From the brewery-


“What’s that bite of tartness doing in a pumpkin beer? Adding the unexpected kick of cranberry juice to brighten this traditionally spiced seasonal ale. PUMPKICK is brewed with plenty of pumpkin juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, but it’s the cranberries and touch of lemongrass that send your taste buds sailing.”


Nice, persistent head with lacing. It looks like Grade A honey in the glass. Its sweetly subtle aroma with fruity esters immediately reminded me of a Belgian trippel. After the next few whiffs, as it warmed in the glass (to 46°), I could detect the spice and pumpkin notes. Similar to the aroma, I tasted the subtle fruit first and then the cranberries at the end. Slightly drying and just the tiniest bit of puckering at the finish. A complex layering that I was not expecting and, overall, a well-balanced beer.


These fine folks have made a video with suggested pairing that can be found here-


I like their pairing with a vegetable torte and a turkey pot pie and although I can appreciate their pairing with pumpkin pie, I don’t see that working for typical Thanksgiving meal, which is really the only time we have pumpkin pie. At our Thanksgiving meal, we normally serve a red zinfandel or a pinot noir, but I could see drinking a Pumpkick with our normal fare which consists of turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and cranberries. In this way it complements the food, and foreshadows the dessert to come, an element that I had never before considered when suggesting a pairing.


Although I wouldn’t drink this beer by itself, I think it provides a superior match to some select fall foods. Kudos to New Belgium for this seasonal offering. And, as a side note, if all you have tasted from New Belgium is Fat Tire Ale, you need to get out more. Check out their Lips of Faith series or visit their tasting room for a truly knee-weakening experience.

And, to keep you up to date, the bottle of Lost Abbey’s Angel’s Share is still in the refrigerator.