Archive for December 2013
Twas a month before Christmas
When Leah turned and said
“Here are the cards for your poem
Now I’m off to bed”
So I searched for a highlight
Picking just one is a toughie
Like hugging Rob Ford
Or trusting Mike Duffy
Our year was terrific
With adventures galore
Life by the Pacific
Is exciting for sure
Ryan turned 16
And started to drive
Each night we thank God
We’re all still alive
Emma hit 14
An important milestone
Becoming the last teen on Earth
To own an iPhone
In the summer we cycled
In Canada Back East
The sights were amazing
The heat was a beast
We visited the Marshalls
In Hunstville so scenic
And confirmed that they’re still
Through Quebec City we pedalled
Up hills steep and cobbled
The sweat was intense
My groin somewhat troubled
Toronto was flatter
Cycling old railway track
It’s a cosmopolitan city
Except for the mayor, who smokes crack
Ziplining above Whistler
In fear and in dread
Is how Leah and I marked
22 years wed
We had visitors, too
Cousin Steve and his clan
We all hit the beach
And worked on our tan
Brother Keith arrived next
So nice he could stay
I leant him my coat
Cos it rained every day
We went to Osoyoos
And drank lots of wine
The rain turned to snow
But we got home on time
Nan and Grandad came to visit
For three weeks this Fall
With cards we slipped pressies
In Grandad’s holdall
And now we look forward
To a promising New Year
England in Rio
And Three Lions to cheer
I wish you the best
For a year full of light
God Bless Wayne Rooney
And to all a good night
“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
― Benjamin Franklin
Jeff Hay-Roe’s brewery is a tribute to improvisation. On a long dining room table adjacent to the family kitchen sit a mash tun, a plastic fermentation bucket, a glass primary fermenter, a copper manifold, a grain mill, a strainer and a few packets of malt and hops. Outside is a kiddie pool, but we’ll get to that later.
“My set-up is pretty ghetto, but it works,” says Jeff, who estimates his brewery cost about $200. He started brewing from kits 10 years ago, but switched to brewing from scratch about three years ago. “My family is very supportive of me in my hobby. It’s only a couple of the kids that seem to not like the smell on brew day, but my wife likes it and most of the kids don’t mind it.”
That’s probably just as well. Jeff has nine kids.
Perhaps inspired by a wider appreciation for craft-brewed beers across B.C., (or perhaps because of the price of them) Jeff is among a growing number of homebrewers here on the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere. In an interview shortly before his death this summer, Dan Small – an icon of Vancouver’s homebrew scene and owner of Dan’s Homebrewing Supplies – had this to say about homebrewing in B.C.
“Man, in the early 90′s people just didn’t know or care anything about beer. It was tough trying to convince Kokanee drinkers to make stout. Things are much, much better now.”
On the Sunshine Coast, a thriving homebrewers’ network has quickly formed ties with the Coast’s newest craft brewer, Persephone Brewing Company in Gibsons. Persephone allows homebrewers to meet and brew on the premises and employs some of its members.
To understand the appeal of homebrewing, Jeff Hay-Roe’s two-storey Gibsons home is a good place to start. Brew day comes around once a month. For about six hours, the kitchen and dining room are requisitioned and the stove is monopolized to boil 30 litres of fluid; that’s the fluid previously separated from a porridge-like mix of grains and water with the copper manifold Jeff designed himself; the same fluid that’s been held at a high temperature for an hour so the enzymes in the grain can convert the starches to sugars. That would be the grain Jeff grinds from kernels in a converted mill operated with a drill connection, not a handle.
“We’ve got a stove-type burner on our barbeque, so I often boil kettles for people out on the barbecue on brew day,” says Jeff.
Hops are added to the fluid boiling away in two pots on the stove, starting with bittering hops then flavor and aroma hops towards the end. An hour of boiling turns 30 litres of fluid into 24 litres of wort. “Six litres evaporate in my kitchen each time,” says Jeff.
“After the boiling’s done it’s important to cool it down immediately,” says Jeff.
A lot of people use coiled immersion chillers, says Jeff. “I put mine in a kiddie pool of cold water.”
Once cool, the wort is poured into the fermenter where yeast performs its magic and fermentation occurs. About 10 days later, Jeff bottles his brew, usually a batch of 70 bottles (each 350mls).
“I always have about eight varieties in the fridge,” says Jeff. “I always like to have a pale ale, a Belgian Blonde ale, a southern English Brown Ale …”
Jeff’s resourcefulness is by no means at the expense of quality. Earlier this year, his London Town Brown Ale won a contest run by Vancouver’s Alibi Room, Howe Sound Brewing and VanBrewers, a non-profit group of homebrewers in the big city. He won a night at the Howe Sound Brewery, participated in brewing a 2,300-litre batch and saw his beer sold in Sunshine Coast private liquor stores.
He’s won prizes for his Belgian Blondes, too. But he readily admits that he’s entered beers in other competitions without success. Winning’s satisfying, says Jeff, but so too is the brewing and the tasting.
“The process I really do enjoy,” he says. “I love the creativity; it’s interesting to see it all happen. You start with something resembling porridge; then there are the different smells all the way along and it ends with something sweet.”
Sharing the fruits of his labour is rewarding, too.
“On Fridays I’ll take some to work and at 4:30 we stop working and have a beer. For a while, I was bringing it to church and we’d have a drink afterwards.”
Matt Thomson and Matt Cavers of the Gibsons Homebrewing Network can relate to those motives. I meet them on a sunny October Saturday at Persephone where they’re brewing barley wine with fellow homebrewers Monte Staats, Amos Harding and Dion Whyte.
The group converge around a stainless steel mash tun where maintaining a specific temperature is vital.
“This is industrial chemistry,” says Matt Thomson, who gives me a crash course. “In the mash, enzymes in base grains convert starch to sugars. At the lower end of the temperature spectrum – 148 to 149 Fahrenheit – you’ll get more fermentable sugar, meaning a dryer, crisper beer.
“At the top of the mash range, close to 158 Fahrenheit, are more sugars that the yeast cannot eat – non fermentable sugars. Higher mash temperatures mean more sugars left and a sweeter beer.”
After a few minutes with the guys, I’m reminded of Jeff’s enjoyment in the process. Besides evaporation there’s enthusiasm and camaraderie in the air. I get the feeling that even a failed barley wine wouldn’t deter this group from trying to brew another. (For the record, it was a delicious success.)
“I produced my first batch, using a recipe from John Palmer’s How To Brew, in March 2007,” recalls Matt Cavers, who’s a full-time brewery assistant at Persephone. “It was miserable stuff. I boiled the specialty grains and extracted loads of astringent tannins from them. I fermented it way too hot, and as a result it tasted like bananas. Still, I drank every bottle, and my beer has only been getting better since.”
Trial and error, it seems, is part of the appeal. So too is pride in one’s own work, says Matt Thomson.
“Homebrewing is growing because it’s part of a natural reconnection to wanting to make things,” he says. “Making beer is satisfying, both in terms of process and product. It helps that most people love it, and certainly it helps that there are cost savings.
“But a really strong driving characteristic that I observe in homebrewers is wanting to be able to share something of value that they have made with a basic tool kit in their own kitchen, or backyard because they believe in it. It’s that sense of pride in something you’ve made on your own.”
Jeff Hay-Roe sees parallels in other crafts. “My wife Jacquie is more of a beer sampler than a beer drinker, but she can appreciate brewing because she’s a knitter,” he says. “Both have a long and rich history of making beautiful things from scratch.”
I’ll drink to that!
- The Gibsons Homebrewing Network is happy to welcome new members. For details, email Matt Thomson at firstname.lastname@example.org