Thursday, November 20, 2008

Strange Brew, Girl What's Inside of You?

(h/t Ta-Nehisi)

This is a Great Atlantic article on so-called "extreme" beers. While not touching on home-brewing per se it contains much that should be useful and of interest to any homebrewer. Read the whole thing. Sample:
The tavern was a success from the day it opened. The beer took a little longer. Calagione had brewed fewer than ten batches before coming to Delaware, and he rarely used the same recipe twice. “I’d just grab herbs and spices and fruits from the kitchen and throw them in,” he says. “I used to think, Oh, it’s cool that every batch tastes different. It’s like snowflakes!” The pub’s brewing equipment consisted of three fifteen-gallon kegs on propane burners, and a rack of modified kegs for fermenting the beer. To keep up with demand, Calagione had to brew two or three times a day, every day; between shifts he slept on a mattress in the cellar. When the beer was ready, he and two employees would don ski goggles and green garbage bags and bottle the beer by hand, with a siphon and mechanical capper. In ten hours they could fill a hundred cases.

“It was a hot ghetto mess,” Bryan Selders, Dogfish’s lead brewer, remembers. By the time Selders arrived, in 2002, Calagione had jury-rigged some larger kettles out of stainless-steel tanks from a yogurt factory. To reach the cooked barley, or mash, Selders had to climb onto a metal grate twelve feet high and straddle the edge of the boiling kettle—one foot on the grate, the other on the kettle’s lid. Once, during a morning production meeting, Selders fell in. “The lid just gave way,” he says. The mash in the kettle was hot—around a hundred and fifty degrees—but came only to the tops of his boots. “I went home, took a shower, watched a little Sally Jessy, and came back.”

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