The Microbrewery is Not a Meth Lab

They’re brewing beer in the garage today! 

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My host Wally and his son Josh are trying their first test batch of beer in the microbrewery Wally has been constructing in his garage. I was leaving for a walk this morning, and I heard a little yelp and a laugh. I look into the garage, and see Wally soaked with water. 

“Yeah…luckily it wasn’t quite up to temp yet.” He said, grinning. “I heard a story about someone at [such and such] brewery. They, uh…I think they’re…” He sort of trailed off with that story, as he got distracted by Josh handing him something.

When I got back from my walk, the air smelled like bread and one of the tanks was getting filled with hot beer water (yup. That’s what I’m calling it). It was exciting stuff.

I really don’t know too much about brewing beer. Wally has walked me through the microbrewery a few times and explained all the different tanks (a total of six) and the function of each one, and I still get pretty confused from it all. For something that people have been drinking for a very long time, it’s a very complex process with piles of variables at every step. The only conversation I can reasonably participate in is when we talk about using spent grains from beer for baking…which is something I’m pretty geeked about.

I’ve been affectionately calling the microbrewery the Space Lab. When I walked out today and saw all the lights on, machines whirring, and tubes running from tank to tank – it felt like the rocket was almost ready to launch.

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I’m just about positive that these are his two fermenters.

I’ve been tempted to tell Wally that I feel like I’ve stumbled onto the set of Breaking Bad. I’ve really been wanting to tell people it’s actually a meth lab, especially after he was talking to me about the nitric acid melting through some copper threading. 

“Wow, you must need hazmat suits or something.”

“Yeah, we got those.” He pointed over to the corner at the yellow suits. 

Oh my god. I thought. He even has the same initials as Walter White.

His son Josh would make a pretty okay Jesse Pinkman. He would need to come off a little less happy to make it work. I’ll see what I can do.

Hops growing along the side of the garage.

Hops growing along the side of the garage.

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Wally decided to start up Brother Ass Brewing after he retired. (The name is explained on the website. It’s a St. Francis thing.) He’d been home-brewing for a few years, decided it was something he wanted to be doing on a bigger scale, and thus began the 217 steps to open up a business, and the additional 58 steps it takes if that business is a microbrewery. Every day he’s in the garage building, connecting things together, sending a stream of water down the driveway or realizing he needs more parts for another process. I really enjoy it because I can go down and chat and ask lots of questions like the nosy little beaver that I am. 

Wally and his wife Liz have four kids who all still live in the area, and come by a lot. So far, I like every single one of them. They were home-schooled, like me, so we can sit around and make excuses for ourselves being different than everyone else. Their daughter Sara is a coffee-person, and Wally’s long-term dream business is to have Josh & him running a pub, and Sara running a coffee joint out of the same building. Like Walter White, he’s “doing it for his family.” 

Crash-landing across the country into their home is suiting me pretty well. Being around a busy family is staving off homesickness and loneliness, and they’ve made me feel more than welcome. Their house is sort of out in the boonies of Vancouver, which is such a switch from living in the exotic and bizarre chaos of downtown Ypsilanti the past 8 years. Everything is a lot more quiet out here –  eerily quiet. Everyone has fruit trees in their lawn. People don’t seem to pick their fruit too often, so I can scoop up an apple or a plum when I’m out for a walk. There’s a hefty patch of blackberries growing across from their house, so I made them some blackberry hand pies last week, because, well, I want them to like me. And I got bored.

I go on a lot of walks out here. There’s not too much around except houses and plants, but I have to stretch my legs and stare at things at least once a day in order to stay sane. This life is a big switch for me.

Wally likes to talk religion. I like talking religion with Wally. We have pretty different beliefs, and he always seems pretty curious about mine. We were running errands and talking about beer, and then he jumped topics and asked “When you were younger, what were your views on hell?” 

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Beer and Jesus – those have been the persistent themes of my first weeks out here. Everyone has an opinion about Jesus, and you’ll hear those opinions once you’re drinking beer. 

I’m with Wally & Liz until September 20th, and then I move into the city and start up school. Yeehaw.

I’ll let you guys know what happens with the test batch.