February 5th I took another crack at my Oatmeal Stout, really a Russian Imperial Stout stylistically speaking. It has been an up and down journey, my first attempt had low mash temps, this round I swung too high the other direction with mash temps hitting the 170's. I re-racked the first week to be hit by fresh cut grass in the profile, 'in' is an understatement, it was the profile. It was horrible, a great stout with something so awful going on. I wanted it to get better with time, but every brewer knows if it starts out funky, well you screwed up. If you can't drink it the first week, you missed the mark, yeah it will get better, but you should have done a better job. Fortunately yeast, nature's greatest invention, are hardworking little creatures. They're always busy cleaning up your messes, like a mom with a wild two year old.
So I thought perhaps some time in the bottle would do it good. So I waxed em' up to look all classy. Except, I was too cheap to just go buy the wax, so around the house I went rounding up old red, soft wax, fru-fru smelly candles. Oh sometimes the things I do. Now I had bad homebrew waxed with the soft greasy wax that smells like your mom's house. I saved two bottles out for Siciliano's homebrew competition. It was getting a bit better, but it still had that funk going on. Hey at least I would get some feedback.
This weekend was Siciliano's homebrew party, an event that I keep saying that I will attend but have yet to commit to. Next year, next year I will make it. I just know that once I go I will have little choice but to make it a permanent annual event in my calendar. There is a great write-up of it here. It is at the party they announce the homebrewing competition results. Today I headed out to get my comments sheet.
While nothing in life is quite as valuable as criticism, and I insist that I welcome it arms wide open - I don't. Ten minutes into my journey I was already in a bad mood. Someone else, judging MY beer. Hey I liked it, minus that little funk, it is some good stuff, and the funk is almost gone now. But it was coming, in just minutes I would be reading about how it had this funk, that I already knew about, and all that other stuff, who knew what they might say. So I had to have a talk with myself, after all I can't stand people who brew bad beer and they think they are God's gift to brewing. So I straitened myself out, told myself to learn, grow, all that stuff, and what a perfect opportunity to get professional feedback.
I arrived, meandered into Siciliano's, and in my usual state of ignorance asked Steve about the grains for baking, I don't have enough hobbies and bread is so close to brewing I really must learn to bake, so I needed some grain. I was not sure what grain, or what I was doing, or what I needed. He helped me out, showed me the 'book' on the grains which was right in front of my eyes but had completely missed in my generally confused state. He asked me if I wanted my sheet, sure why not. Here it was, in just seconds official results were going to be upon me. He in his usual spirit of helpfulness and kindness stated that I had done quite well. How nice, at least the news was being delivered by a kind soul.
There is was, I had - thanks to all those hardworking little yeast - won gold and even made it to the best of show round. I was pretty shocked, pleased, and all that talking to I had just had with myself went out the door. Just more fodder for the misplaced ego. So there I was with my one dollar of flour mumbling about how I hated to put a dollar on my card, I should at least buy something. Steve said 'don't worry about it' because he's Steve and Sicilianos is more than just a store. But if you are still reading you are probably tired of my rambling and would prefer that I extol the virtues of the most wonderful homebrew store and its owner in another blog post. Of course I couldn't leave without picking up Founders latest release of Old Curmudgeon, because even gold medal homebrewers pale in the face of the greatest brewery on earth.