March 19, 2010

Today's Reading

All rise. Today's reading will be from Brewing, 12.4.1 ... Decoction mashing.
"Decoctions these days, are therefore unnecessary for dealing with under-modification and likely have no real role to play in beer character or quality."

Modern malts are well-modified; there is now no need for you to spend all that time away from American Idol. Modern brewing science tells us there will be no difference in the finished beer; so pack it up early, O my Homebrewers. This show ends after one sacch rest; get off the streets.

Incidentally, your IBU measurements are imaginary. You've also been wasting your time if you do a protein rest, use spices, pitch multiple strains of yeast, turbid mash a sour ale wort, or attempt to brew an antiquated/historical/extinct style. You morons.

Actually, to take this to the logical conclusion, don't brew at all.

Seriously. Commercial operations can do it better anyway. Put away this garage-and-basement claptrap. Go buy your six packs like everybody else. Who do you think you are?

Here's all I'm saying, O my Homebrewers: if you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha.

Brewing is a craft. It's both art and science, but these days it seems that science is dominating the discourse - even on our small, five-gallons-at-a-time, 1/6th-Barrel Brewhouse scale - with something that smells an awful lot like dogma. Without some subjectivity - without more than one right way (or at least acceptable way) to do something - homebrewing starts to look more and more like an either/or proposition: either you push in all your chips, pay for the 'spensive equipment, and color by the numbers; or else it's just a waste of time and propane.

And what, O my glass of Kulmbacher Reichelbrau G'frorns Eisbock, does this make a decoction mash if not the biggest waste of time and propane? A decoction mash is a battleground of science and art. And ultimately I don't really much care who wins. I just like brewing ... in my house ... for myself.

Wait. I guess that puts me on the side of art kinda by default. Alright then.

No role to play in character or quality - fine. But leave aside your microscope, O my Professor; slam the rest of that dry-hopped Sticke Alt and get you another, put on Electric Ladyland, and come stand by me, here, over the small kettle. That is not nothing happening.

That is a crucible in which malt and brewer are together transfigured by heat and labor. My wrists are sore from stirring this motherloving Doppelbock porridge for an aggregate of 90 minutes. My clothes are still going to reek of melanoidins hours from now when I'm sitting in a camp chair nursing a half liter of something cold and staring at a pile of cleaned steel in a PBW puddle.

No role to play in character or quality - fine. Except that character and quality - a.k.a. the drinker's perception of the finished beer - isn't purely objective, no matter how hard you science it with your science. Experience is subjective, homebrewing is personal, and the drinking audience is me. For a homebrewer, it's impossible to separate the experience of brewing from the experience of drinking the beer.

I brewed the damn thing. I am going to recognize with my mouth and nose the work and attention and love showered on this lager like a mother bear recognizes her cubs. The memory of the brew day wired into muscle pathways and squirreled away, untouchable by lab coats, somewhere amidst dendrite and synapse, to be evoked at the first sip. Remember the buzz we had from the Alt, and then Voodoo Child came on just as the timer for the high mash went off? You're %$*# right I can taste the decoctions, Poindexter!

Here's all I'm saying, O my Homebrewers:

If you love the beer that you brew, then you are doing everything right, no matter what you might have once read or may at some point in the future read elsewhere.