Double Trouble: How Brewing Two Different Beers Put Me to the Test

Life’s a …. and Then You Brew
Due to a bunch of things going on in my life I got a little behind in my brewing this past winter. During that cold and dreary time between the end of golf season and the beginning of golf season (or as my brother likes to think of it, the end of water skiing and the beginning of water skiing), we play pool at my place and I like to have a few beers on tap for everyone to try. This year, however, I got so far behind that I had no beer at the beginning of the season.  NONE!  That’s never happened in the past seven years when we started this tradition.

BYOB? Say It Ain’t So, Bob!
Well, the gang didn’t like the BYOB program we had to institute so I tried playing catch-up. As anyone who brews will tell you, usually there’s some down time. And if you brew by yourself, this can be very boring down time, like walk-around-the-room-singing-doing-whatever-you-can-down-time. (Good thing there are no windows to my brewery.)

How Brewing Beer is Like Raising Kids
Well, like any parent will tell you, having a child will change your life forever. After a while, that warm fuzzy feeling you get with one child will lead to having another. The surprise is finding out the workload is not additive, but exponential. All those moments of peace and quiet are totally wiped out. Your organizational skills are put to the test. The same goes for brewing. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

What Was I Thinking?
I was feeling ambitious and had the bright idea of brewing two beers at the same time. I’ve done it before, but it was two batches of the same beer. I just got them out of phase by 20 minutes and life was good. This time I decided to brew two different beers – a Russian Imperial Stout and a Pale Ale. The stout requires a 90-minute boil and the pale ale requires a 60-minute boil with very different hop additions. This was a big pain. So much to coordinate. So much to re-think. After brewing more than 180 beers in my life some things are just natural habit. But when you are brewing two different beers, and you reach for a piece of equipment for one beer but it’s tied up for the other, you end up improvising. Brewing and improvising do not go together very well in my mind. Process control is critical in brewing good beer.

I had to keep reminding myself of the line in the book The Complete Joy of Home Brewing, “relax and have a home brew.” Think of it like baby-sitting for two babies. Sure you want to relax and have a home brew but sooner or later your wife will be coming home to find that under your watch, one child’s hand is in the toilet and the other is stuffing a sandwich into the DVD player. So you have to keep your wits about you until everything is in the primary fermenter. Then and only then can you enjoy the fruits of your labor. Washing up and cleaning the brewery can wait until tomorrow.

A Happy Ending with a Successful Double Brew
After all the improvising and thinking on my feet, the two beers finally finished up and both tasted pretty good. All was right with the world.

As for you, just remember, the next time you’re thinking about doing a double brew of different beers, be prepared to use your parenting skills.

Take care and drink wisely,