Not Martha

What I learned on my summer break: brewing beer at Spinnaker Bay Brewing

Hello there! Apparently I took a summer break from my website. Sorry about that, I didn’t set out to make it a slow summer around here but I had to admit that my I needed a break. Meanwhile my attention was elsewhere, I was learning to brew beer!

In the spring a women founded, own and run brewery named Spinnaker Bay Brewing opened in my neighborhood. I basically marched in there, introduced myself and negotiated my way into getting to learn how to brew beer. Pushy yes but, hey, free labor for them. Here is what I’ve learned.

Beer is like theater: In the background people are putting a lot of effort into something that is huge and sometimes messy and occasionally dangerous. And then at a specific time people arrive so you scramble to make the experience as good as possible for them. In both cases there isn’t a necessarily a large amount of profit to be had, you do it because you love it so damn much.

Beer is like sewing: When you learn to sew you quickly realize that it’s almost 75% ironing. Brewing beer is 75% cleaning up and equipment maintenance. There is a lot of improvising when you need to troubleshoot and a lot of creative problem solving. Clearly I love it.

Community: Having a brewery a few blocks away as spot to gather means I’ve met neighbors that I wouldn’t have otherwise and I’ve gotten news on what’s going on in the neighborhood that isn’t the sort that is put into print. The brewery focuses on partnering with other businesses who are local, they bring food trucks into an area that might not otherwise be a draw and even the spent grain from the brewing process is given to Farmer Wayne who feeds it to his pigs. (Do we see a brewery pig roast in the future? Yes, yes we do.)

Persistence: Sometimes when you’re brewing beer the mash gets stuck, meaning there is a clog. When you’re dealing with 80 gallons of hot liquid and grain you cannot just give up and start over, you have to find a way to fix it. Is this a metaphor? Yes, yes it is. Getting to peek behind the scenes at the brewery means I get to see the owners unstick a lot of situations, take a moment to celebrate and then tackle the next thing. It takes a lot of strength and I admire them deeply. And I’m not just saying that because they refuse to let me pay for my beer.

The kitchen of the future: The liquid that becomes beer is very sticky and spills are inevitable, but in a brewery we simply hose everything down and leave it sparklingly clean. I really wish it was that easy, and that much fun, to clean my own kitchen.

This summer I wore out a pair of rubber boots and four pairs of gloves. I also learned that I can lift a 55-pound bag of grain (though I do look hilariously awkward doing it). It was like doing crossfit in a sauna, except for all that beer that negates all the hard physical work.

I’ve been generously loaned a pretty serious homebrew setup so expect to see some potentially failed beer brewing experiments here on my site in the next few weeks.

· comments [5] · 09-11-2013 · categories:mumbling ·

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Kim O // Sep 11, 2013 at 6:15 am

    Wow…way to create a wonderful experience for yourself! This was a brilliant idea (and has started me thinking…hmm). Thanks for sharing!

  • 2 Nicole@dearhandmadelife // Sep 11, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Megan,
    Love how you compare ironing in sewing to cleaning in beer making. So true! I always tell my new sewing students that the sewing part is pretty small compared to the prep. I helped my husband bottle his wine last month and am writing about what biz owners can learn from winemaking. Love to see all the parallels. Can’t wait to read about you future adventures in brewing! -n

  • 3 Alicia // Sep 11, 2013 at 10:16 am

    This is pretty great, would love to hear more about it. I always love to hear the “getting started on something new” stories, other people’s excitement about their new projects is infectious. Yay!

  • 4 Jen // Sep 12, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    A guy I was friendly with in school and now have only fb contact with started home brewing in the past year. Dude put taps into his own fridge! I thought that was the nuttiest part. I mean, kits exist for home brewing, and it’s a cool, though not unheard of hobby, but who the heck mods a fridge?

  • 5 Wendy // Sep 19, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    I have hops ready to harvest (I live on Beacon Hill in Seattle). Take it all! Contact me.

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