I can still remember reading this dude’s book for the first time. I remember distinctly that it felt like a call to action, but even so, I think that year’s edition of MD would have had a hard time imagining what a seismic, life-changing decision that fateful first five gallons of Extra Pale Ale wort actually represented, charting a course and starting a common thread to run through the next couple-three decades and connecting me with a network of like-minded deviants (Summit Brewing founder Mark Stutrud’s term, not mine; but I wear it with pride) all over the world.
Now, as I figuratively sit atop a mountain of floor-malted Bohemian Pils malt and an embarrassment of sticky hop pellets and an ark of exotic microbes stashed in my house for personal use, it’s positively bizarre to consider that when that fateful first five gallons hit the bucket it was pretty plush to be able to get yeast in liquid format and “malt” meant syrup with a high likelihood of getting burned on your kitchen stove in the process of becoming beer. And when this dude wrote that book, things were even grimmer.
Charlie’s keynote to the crowd assembled at the 40thHomebrewCon in Portland was a valediction. It was a recap of where we’ve been and a reminder of what was good and vital and essential about those early days, notwithstanding the bleak ingredient outlook and futziness of repurposed equipment. It was a call to action to remember to bring that with us: the fun and goofiness, larger pours instead of competition scores, a sense of wonder and complete joy.
At this year’s HBC, I got to serve that dude a beer that I brewed, and that was a high point. We didn’t dissect it, we didn’t really even talk about it – the act of sharing and communal partaking was way more remarkable than the liquid itself, which is after all “just fucking beer” (Jake Keeler’s term, not mine; but I wear it with pride). I think it was the Red Rice Lager I poured for Charlie, but I brought six different kegs and I’m not entirely sure; which one it was doesn’t really even matter.
However, since we are nerds as well as philosophers, and I did promise tasting notes, I had myself a larger pour of those batches for QA purposes before they shipped out to the Oregon Convention Center.
I can tell you that the Red Rice Lager was like Banquet’s little brother, and that I probably could have put a pretty good dent in that keg while staying in that hammock if it didn’t have other engagements. The red rice added just a bit of toastiness to a basic light lager profile and the S-189 scoured it down to vanishing dryness. I do remember that once it went on tap at HBC, this keg went fast.
The Wies’n also went fast. Its foam stand was structural, and it was malty and dry with a splatter of noble hop flavor dancing around the periphery like it was a Bavarian rave. What more can one say about Barke Pils? It makes good lager, and I wish I had made more.
Let’s all cut the shuck and jive and get on with the homebrewing.