[This is the fourth installment of an ongoing series by Adam Draeger, an experienced homebrewer and engineer transitioning to the world of professional brewing through coursework at the Siebel Institute of Brewing Technology.]
It’s takes a lot of coffee to study beer! This picture (right) shows the coffee pots that are filled about twice daily to satisfy the homebrewers wanting to turn pro. Confession time. I haven’t had a drop of coffee since the summer of 1996 at Scott Bruss’s parents’ house. I actually like the smell of good coffee (not burned cafe/gas station coffee) but well made coffee. The reasons I don’t drink it are arguably more philosophical, but I try to justify it using logic. Caffeine is bad for you (like alcohol is in large quantities, okay bad logic), and then I don’t drink caffeine-free because I’m a beer snob and coffee snobs know that caffeinated coffee tastes better. Trust me, if I can snob-up beer, I can snob-up coffee and next thing you know, I own my own electrically controlled brew pot, grinder, and home roaster. I think brewing is enough of a passion (read: addict) that I’m not welcoming the idea of another beverage consuming my time.
This week we had a diversity of professors from other countries. In college I had a diversity of professors but they seemed to be Asian, Indian and African. In Beer-School, we hear from the Scottish, German, Canadian and English. These guys were great and we bantered over what “real” beer was and everyone picked on the Canadian in class (even the Canadian prof). I really liked Graeme Walker from Scotland. He is probably the world expert on yeast (and if you remember this week was 40 hours worth of yeast materials). Graeme was witty, smart, entertaining and really knew his stuff. You could tell he was a real professor because he knew how to lecture and could keep us engaged as well as skipped info that was irrelevant to the materials that we would be tested on. He also told us drinking stories and hangover tips…how can you not like a guy like that? Besides, his accent was a mix between Sean Connery, Shrek and Mrs. Doubtfire . :)
Yeast. YeAsT. YEAST! Um, yeah, I’ve learned more chemistry, biology and microbiology this week than I did in high school and college combined. Fortunately we didn’t have to balance chemistry equations or memorize what NAD and ATP stood for (even though I did, just in case). In addition to learning what makes yeast tick, and metabolic pathways, we got to taste yeast flavor defects…also never forget the importance of Glycolysis and Zinc. From memory our tasting was (because my other notes are in Chicago–I’m in Iowa City awaiting the Megabus as I type–Diacetyl, Acetaldehyde, Yeast, autolyzed yeast (dead), ethanol, high alcohols and one more that escapes me at the moment. Good tasting experience.
We also had our “American style” tasting, pictured above. Except for Michelob (which tastes pretty good when served in clean glasses at the correct temp) everything was a craft beer, and high alcohol at that. They really need to give us a snack if they expect us to taste 10 beer high-proof beers. I didn’t think I would learn much from beers I’ve already tried, but Lyn (remember the tasting expert and pres of Siebel?) is really good at facilitating these tastings and I won’t underestimate her palate or these experiences again.
Only found one new place to eat/drink this week called Local Option. The owner had a birthday party for himself and bought a huge selection of hard-to-get beers. They were awesome. But at $9 per beer, I didn’t stick around long and won’t be going back, even though the selection was probably the best I’ve ever seen at a Chicago beer bar (even better than the old Chicago favorite, the Map Room.
My wife brought a “beer” puzzle to Chicago that I’ve owned for about two years. I got it used and the pic said that it was taken in 1990 (21 years old….old enough to drink!) I thought it would be cool if the class put it together and then hung it on the wall. But…I didn’t think they would let me do it. So I just let it sit on the bar for two days first and tried to get a feel for it. No real feeling one way or another, except Derek who seemed interested at lunch on Tuesday. So I suggested that we just do the border. We only had 20 minutes and got about 80% done with the border before lunch was over. Next break I come upstairs and see the border is done, a few bottles are finished and the whole puzzle is sitting on a chunk of cardboard that is taped together for easy transport. Turns out the admin’s are both big puzzle gals and LOVED the idea. It took us less than 48 hours to put together this 700 piece puzzle just during lunch, breaks and after school. Lupe is getting some glue to put it together and we have been approved to get it hung on the walls of Siebel somewhere. (I’m hoping to get us to sign it as a class or something). Nerdy idea that has materialized into something pretty cool!
Monday my roommate and his girlfriend (who is visiting from Belgian) had a fight for three hours and the cops showed up, so that made the week…”interesting.” Let’s just say that Facebook doesn’t advertise how many breakups they have instigated. She left this Saturday and so did he for two weeks, so I have the apartment to myself for 50 percent of the time I have left in Chicago.
I took the Megabus back home to Pella, Iowa, this weekend. The bus was almost an hour late, so I didn’t did crawl into bed until 12:45a.m. on Friday and my daughters had me up at 7a.m. It was awesome to see them and spend some time with them again. Erin was a quilt guild retreat in Newton, and I filled the role of daddy and babysitter at the same time. We had an open house in the morning so we headed over to a friend’s house for the morning, but it ended up being all day since the girls had a good time playing with their daughter and we adults were feeling lazy enough that it felt good to just “hang.”
I’m in Iowa City waiting for my Megabus return trip and my glass of Great River Dirty Blonde is done (awesome chocolate-flavored blonde ale from an Iowa brewer), so I’m going to call it. Next week ends with another tasting, as well as a field trip visit to Metropolitan Brewery.