It’s Brew Day!

Grinding some Pale Malts at Defalco's in Ottawa.

Grinding some Pale Malts at DeFalco’s in Ottawa.

After a bit of a lull on the craft-beer-loving front, the next few days are shaping up to be pretty busy and exciting. Having had some extremely awesome visitors staying with me for the better part of the past week, I wasn’t really paying that much attention to all things beer related. A good example of that fact happens to also be the main contributor to my slight loss of sanity over the past day or so.

Late last week, I was one of the many who rushed online to buy my tickets to Beau’s Oktoberfest as soon as they were available. I didn’t let the fact that I missed out on the pre-sale by only two people spoil my excitement for what, in my opinion, is the premier beer-related event in the Ottawa area. I spent some time reading through the activities planned for this year’s edition and one thing caught my eye – a home-brew competition. As an avid home brewer with dreams of one day having my own craft brewery, I relish the opportunity to put my creations out there for people to try. Even more exciting is that the winner gets the opportunity to brew a batch at Beau’s Brewery. I figure, win or lose, it’s an excuse to make (hopefully) delicious beer, but oh boy would I ever like to win! So as you might imagine, it didn’t take very long before I had decided throw something together in the ol’ brew kettle, all the while assuming that I had plenty of time, given the event takes place October 4th and 5th.

Fast-forward to Monday. I started to think that it might be a good idea to read the rules, print the forms, start to plan… “Hmm, that’s disconcerting,” I thought as I abruptly stopped reading. Turns out the actual submission deadline is much sooner than I had originally expected. Much sooner to the tune of almost one month. My heart sank. I instantly weighed a year’s worth of waiting for another chance to compete and it felt like a punch to the gut. I had been dreaming for days of sultry dark malts and their rich, deep, chocolaty flavours, playful and subtle hops, sweet and creamy lactose sugar. Lactose sugar! I had been fixated on brewing a milk stout for reasons that I even I don’t fully understand, and now there was no way I was going to pull it off. I looked ahead to see when I even had a free evening to brew and began counting down the weeks on a calendar; counting twice, three times. There was just no mathematical way that I could pull a great beer off, I thought.

My animal instincts began to kick-in and as soon as I got home from work I took inventory of what left-overs I had from other batches completed earlier-on in the summer. Only somewhat relieved, I was able to assemble the required amount of bottles from my Cafe Roma IPA stock as a fail-safe. I weighed my options. At very least I would have something to enter. Should I try to brew something that took less time; a nice Weizen or a light Saison? Even with those the odds were stacked against me. Ultimately, whether out of stubbornness or stupidity, I opted to swing for the wall rather than bunt. I would try to complete my six-and-a-half-week Milk Stout recipe in only four weeks. With an outrageous amount of luck, it might just turn out.

I made the decision to go ahead with the Milk Stout yesterday and it has been controlled chaos ever since. So far, I haven’t had much of the luck I was hoping for. Yesterday, for example, I spent a few hours searching for bits to rebuild a cooler mash tun, after learning that my old one was leaking beyond repair. After all the running around I still wasn’t able to get all the pieces I needed. Setback? Yes. But bad omens aside, I’m moving forward. After an extended lunch break today, I managed to acquire all of the necessary ingredients and am on track for a very, very full night of brewing.

At the end of the day, despite my poor planning and the very likely probability of my beer not being ready in time, I still feel that the true purpose of this activity is being served. The reason I, and so many others, do these sorts of things is purely for the adventure and the love of beer. Fitting too that it’s currently Craft Beer Week in Ottawa; and while, sadly, I have not yet been able to participate in any of the awesome events that I am reminded of daily via Twitter, I feel that this is a fitting, albeit late start to the celebration. There is no way I am going to miss out on the National Capital Craft Beer Festival this weekend. So I go forward tonight, fingers crossed, knowing at very least that if something goes horribly wrong I will be able to dampen my sorrows with delicious craft beer all weekend.

I did say the next few days were going to be exciting, after all!