IMHO, the shiny new brewery kit in the picture is not a small accomplishment, it’s a medium-sized one. I will be talking more about that in another post. No, trust me, I will. How much can you take, you wonder?
In fact, what I want to talk about really is a small accomplishment, but one which brought great joy to me, simply because it worked. So here it is: I worked out how to bottle beer without driving myself nuts and giving myself a bad back.
Now, bottling beer is a bit of a pfaff. You’ve got to wash, sterilise, rinse, and drain forty or so bottles for a typical batch. Then you’ve got to get your beer into said bottles, without adding any germs, dirt, goo, gunk or other undesirables. Oh, but you do want to add a bit of sugar (in measured amounts). Then you have to put caps on them (which, of course, you had to wash, sterilise, rinse, and dry – you get the picture; and don’t forget to do a few spares, because I can guarantee to drop a few, which of course, you can’t use).
So up until recently, I stuck to the traditional English bitter styles, which I could put into a plastic barrel. Job done. But then I got bored of always making the same beer. It was nice enough, but it was pretty much the same. I dabbled with lagers a few times, with mixed results. But that was it.
Now, it is unquestionably true that America rules the world. The world of beer, anyway. No, calm, breathe! It’s true. The world of craft-brewing (i.e. home-brewing withouth the sandals or cardigans) is America. New hop varieties, new technology, and a thriving hobbiest community. So I started to look into it, inspired by pint bought for me by an old friend that tasted a bit of oranges, and was LUSCIOUS.
Oh, am I going to have fun telling you all about that, but back to the point: bottles. These beers go in bottles. You fizz them. So I had to crack it.
Here’s what happened one cold, winter’s day. It was cold. So I locked myself in the garage with the radio on. Go, Roadrunner. And I heated up lots of water. It was cold, see? Then I arranged a bucket of hot, bleachy water on the bench. Next, a bucket of hot, rinsey water. It was like a production line. First, the bottle tree went in the bleachy water, then in the rinse, then set up on the table. Boom! Then, the first batch of bottles into the bleachy water. Then they went into the rinse. Then more bottles into the bleachy, then the rinsed ones were emptied, and put on the tree. Boom! 12 bottles away. Then bleachy ones into the rinse … boom, boom, boom!
The satisfaction I got from getting the rhythm sorted was immense. I know I sound like some bloke in with a clipboard called Norman from a Carry-On film, but it’s cool. I’ve cracked a problem, and I found a calming, mindful task that just works. It’s like a Tai-Chi pattern.
And that is my first example of the joy of small things.