Richard Bolster and his daughter cap a homebrew
I’m a proud father. I’m a proud homebrewer. I’m a better father than I am a homebrewer — I hope.
I have a three-year-old daughter and a nine-month-old son. I hadn’t homebrewed in more than three years because, well, I’ve been distracted. So it was with some excitement and anticipation that I set out on a recent Saturday to brew up a batch of IPA and involve my daughter in the process. She’s handy in the kitchen.
It took a bit of arm-twisting to get my wife to go along with my plan to brew with a three-year-old, but my powers of persuasion (which basically consisted of asking, “What could possibly go wrong?”) are renowned.
And so we began. First, we filled a pot with 3 gallons (11 L) of water. Easy. Fun. Especially when you can fit inside the pot.
Next, we measured out the grains for the muslin bag. In the process, the child learned a new word, “muslin,” some basic math skills and was introduced to the science of weights and measures. Plus, mmmmmmm mmm, she tasted the crunchy barley. I said excitedly, “They taste like Grape Nuts, don’t they?” She stared, blankly.
We watched the bloated grain bag sink slowly into the pot, darkening the water as it begins its transformative journey to wort. “It’s like tea!” my observant one squealed.
Soon the wort was bubbling away on the stove, filling the house with that delightful Raisin Bran aroma. So far so good. She was engaged, interested and helpful.
Then it was time to add the first round of hops. She learned about geography as we tore open the packets of Cascade, Centennial and Amarillo. “Find the Yakima Valley on our map of the United States” I told her. And, “breathe deep, honey, that’s Dada’s favorite smell in the whole wide world.” “Can I taste them?” she asked while carefully stirring the wort. Ignoring the concerned look from Mama, I said, “Yeah, sure, why not?”
Now it was time for a bath. An ice bath! What three year-old doesn’t love a bath? “No, my little braumeister,” I explained, “you can’t get in the tub with all that ice.”
Once my high-tech cooling system was deployed, it was time to pitch our yeast.
“Daddy, what’s yeast?” she asked.
“Ah, it’s a, um, ah . . . a microorganism. A tiny creature, it’s kind of, sort of, like a fungus,” I attempted. “You know, mushrooms are a fungus. It is in the air, but we can’t see it because it’s so small but, um, it, ah, eats the sugar in this wort and, um, it poops out alcohol. Get it? No? Well, my hop cone, there are yeast scientists, yeast-ologists I think they’re called, who don’t even know what yeast is but trust me it’s important.” Yeast lesson completed.
Next, I asked her to hand me an airlock. She loves the airlock. Of course she does. Airlocks are cool. She filled it with water and we sealed the goodness into the carboy to let the beer ferment.
As I kissed her goodnight she had one final request, a fair one considering her contribution to the process, “Dada,” she whispered, “can I taste the beer when it’s done fomenting?”
“It’s fermenting, my wee home brew judge, and of course you may taste it...once you turn sixteen.”
On bottling day, my little Carol Stoudt-in-training managed to fill more than a few bottles and spill more than a few bottles worth. She wielded a capper better than many a seasoned homebrewer I’ve seen, and she went to bed sticky and smelling of beer. (See earlier comment about my parenting credentials.)
Note: No children were harmed in the making of this column. However, one marriage was tested.