June 16, 2006

Beer column

Are you familiar with Bruce Cameron? He's the guy who wrote 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, which, in turn, became a sitcom. Anyway, he's been writing columns for a lot of years now and I just stumbled across the one where Bruce decides to take up a new hobby: brewing beer. I've reprinted it in its entirety here, along with the link to Bruce Cameron's website.

Ale's Well That Ends Well

Copyright 2001 W. Bruce Cameron http://www.wbrucecameron.com/

Believing that maybe it would help my relationship with my 12-year-old son if
we had a common hobby, I bought him a beer-making kit. My wife seemed to think that the situation called for female incredulity.

"You got your son a BEER-making kit?" she demands. "Are you out of your mind?"

"Hey, you were the one who said we needed to do more things together," I point out.

"So you picked drinking beer," she scoffs.

"Of course not. He'll only make it. I'LL be the one drinking it,"I respond. I hold my hands up in a representation of harmonious balance in the universe.

She fixes me with a scorching look that I recognize from early in our marriage, when I tried to train her to bring me snacks during football games,
but I will not be deterred. "It's very scientific," I declare. "Fermentation. Carbonation."


My son is even less enthusiastic. "It smells bad; you DRINK this stuff?" he sniffs, stirring the batch of malt and hops.

"Yes, but not until there is alcohol in it," I explain with fatherly wisdom.

"Alcohol is a by-product of fermentation," he quotes, looking through the little handbook. He squints at me. "You'll be drinking yeast pee."

"Real men don't read directions," I advise.

When we're finished, my home brew sits tightly sealed in a plastic keg.

"This is the pressure valve," I lecture my son. "The yeast builds up carbon dioxide, which escapes out the valve; otherwise there would be an explosion that would level houses in a four-block area."

I'm hoping this will excite him, but he's been reading the manual again. "Carbon dioxide is another waste by-product," he intones.


"In other words, yeast farts."

For three days, the mixture sits implacably inside the plastic vessel, as exciting as a bucket of paint. Concerned, I sneak in a little more sugar to get the yeast motivated. "You're not supposed to do that, Dad," my son warns.

The next day, the yeast have suddenly sprung to life, bubbling and hissing as
they busily produce waste products. Impatient, I pull on the little tap, pouring an ounce of muddy liquid into a glass and taking a sip.

"Does it taste like beer?" my son asks anxiously.

"Maybe beer that's already been through somebody," I respond ruefully.

That night my son prods me awake. "Dad, the beer is calling you."

My wife gives me a frown, as this is exactly the excuse I give her whenever I
meet my buddies at the sports bar. "What do you mean?"I ask him.

He shrugs. "You sort of need to come hear it. It's making noises."

My wife puts her hand on my arm. "Could it be dangerous?" she inquires anxiously.

I laugh. "Of course not. How could beer be dangerous? Beer Is Our Friend."

I follow my son out into the kitchen and, at his urging, put my ear to the plastic keg. He's right: There is some sort of creaking noise emitting from the seams around the edge of the thing. Through the thick, dark plastic, I can see that the yeast has rioted, filling the vessel with foam.

"Maybe you put in too much sugar," he worries. "Should I start calling people
in a four-block area?"

"Nonsense. More sugar just means a higher alcohol content. How could that be bad?" But his question has drawn my attention to the filter, which should be allowing yeast farts to escape. Instead, it looks locked in place, a little button that should be bobbing up and down.

I reach out a finger.

"Dad " my son starts to say.

The moment I pry at the valve it fires straight up like a bullet, the little button gone in an instant. The entire contents of the keg follow half a second later, a thick spray of foam coating everything in the kitchen. I don't even have time to blink and it is over, except that a steady rain of gooey sludge comes down on my head from the ceiling.

Tilting my jaw, I'm able to catch a few drops in my mouth. My wife bursts into the kitchen and stares at me, shocked.

"Not bad," I tell her, licking my lips.

Posted by: Physics Geek at 08:53 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 I've lucked out so far and not had any explosions. A few bad batches, but nothing has gone *boom*. And yes, I love yeast pee and farts. Deeeeeeelicious.

Posted by: Robb Allen at June 16, 2006 08:59 AM (9tUNz)

2 Long long ago, a Frat brother tried a small brew in his closet (during summer vacation, when almost nobody was around.) He had a similar yeast explosion, which of course soaked ALL his suits, blazers, slacks etc. (He had a LOT of expensive clothes.) And, he had to go running to Dad saying, "Well I need a lot of money to get all my clothes dry cleaned..." I'll leave the ensuing conversation to your imagination.

Posted by: Frank Borger at June 16, 2006 09:22 AM (2F9VC)

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