Firing up the kettle

Updated: Apr 24, 2019

I'm sure that many people experience the feeling of finding something that really makes them feel good, explore, create and so on. Well, as soon as I started searching the Internet back in 2014, reading blogs and watching videos, I also got my first brewing books of John Palmer and Randy Mosher. The craving felt almost obsessive. I brought the conversation about home-brewing at home at the dinner table, in the mornings at the coffee shop with my colleagues and at the meetings with my friends. Soon enough, I asked my dad to give me a hand with creating my first 40L brewing system. The prize was a good home-made beer and he easily agreed. It was soon to be found what the beer will be like for real. After a couple of weeks, we had three old beer kegs bought online plus the materials, bits and pieces to build the rest of the kit. This was a lot of fun though I knew I had to be patient. Thanks to my dad's skills and support soon we had a mash tun and a kettle ready to rock!

While the brewing kit was developing I was trying to get my hands on every piece of valuable advice I could find in the books and on the Internet. One main source appeared to be just there in my own country-the newly established Association of the Bulgarian home-brewers. The passion of these guys has no measure! At the time just a hand full of people was involved but the word was spreading and the community was growing with steady steps. Soon I consumed all the information from their website/blog and I became a member myself. Thanks to these people, home-brewers in Bulgaria were able to brew their recipes as they opened the first home-brewing shops/online stores. Some of them even shared their commercial business resources to make ingredients available to us-the home-brewers. A big 'Thank you' goes to all of them!

And now, I had to decide the recipe my dad and I will try first. As I said I was reading everything everywhere. I started using websites where people share recipes, built and made available brewing calculators and on and on, non-stop. Well, the information was so overwhelming that I remember closing the laptop and I just started staring out the window. My head was a massive buzz with questions about malt and hops varieties, yeast types, 'is the water good enough in our neighbourhood?'... 'how I'll brew this first beer?'....I never did it before...stainless steel, gas burners, plastic tubes... 'what?!'. On the next morning, it was clear, let's keep it simple. There will be many factors, let's control those we can, the rest - it is what it is. I decided to go with simple grain bill, a couple of lovely American hops-Summit and Cascade, and the US-05 American ale yeast. I purchased the ingredients the same day and set down waiting. On the next day, the ingredients arrived and I urged my dad to get ready for firing up the kettle tonight. After I finished work, the fun began! Well...almost. I won't go into details but I learned my lessons that evening. Brewing 40L of beer in the middle of my dad's kitchen. Soon we found out that it wasn't such a good idea. Steam everywhere, some of the kitchen cabinets that were closer to the gas burner started bending. At some point, there was a bit of desperation in our eyes but we simply knew that if we made it that far, there is nothing to make us stop. With few minor changes, we did the boiling of the worth on the balcony. The smell of the hops was so uplifting. With whispering voice, it painted pictures of green fields, hop pickers, brewers that felt the same feeling hundreds of years ago. It was pure joy! Just staring at the kettle in silence. I'll never forget it. At that moment I knew that we passed one of the tricky parts of the brewing process. As soon as the boiling was over we cooled the beer down, pitched the yeast, cleaned the mess and had a beer. Both my dad and I were exhausted but somehow satisfied. Our aim that evening was to do the fundamentals right. It was 02:00 am. We knew that now we have to wait and just watch. I went back home that night where both my wife Ira and our 7 years old son Alex were in a deep sleep and I snuggled into the bed. It was a happy time. Just imagine, in the dark, eyes wide open, a huge kid-like smile on my face. I wasn't sure what the beer will be like but life felt good, peaceful in a way.

A week later I transferred the beer and dry-hopped it. Another ten days and I bottled it. I didn't want to taste it yet but the aroma was already very promising.

The time came and together with my family, we set around the table. I opened a few bottles and poured the glass. Nazdrave! (Cheers) and then silence .... Ah.... Fantastic! We all smiled and laughed, joyfully sharing the moment and remembering the whole experience from the brewing day. It was worth waiting. Definitely! I still remember how grateful I was, not only for that moment but also for my family and friends without whom life wouldn't be the same.

Soon after, my friend Alex and his family got back to Bulgaria for the Christmas Holidays and, of course, we couldn't wait to sit down together and rise glasses with the new brew. Well, more laugh and more fun! Such a great memories indeed.


I don't know if you really spent the time reading this all but if you did, thank you! ;)

.....to be continued

My son Alex and I at the first tasting of the beer.

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