Booze we've made
"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com – brought to you by Absolut, Avion, Fireball, Pama, Red Stag and 2 Gingers – is back for another round! The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun articles on bars and clubs – including guides, the latest trends, bar reviews, the results of our Best of Bars poll and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!
During bar month we're featuring all sorts of beers, wines and spirits made by craftsmen working at companies of all sizes. But we also realized that most of us had at least once tried to make something ourselves to imbibe.
Here are some of our own stories of brewing beer, vinting fruit or infusing alcohol.
I got into home brewing from my in-laws. They produce amazing wines out of their house. I've was always been interested in brewing and making soda, so I asked them a lot of questions. They showed up for Christmas one year with a complete home brewing kit including two cases of unused 12-ounce bottles and a Belgian Blond Ale wort starter. I've never found a wort starter like since. After brewing that first beer I was immediately hooked. I brew anywhere from one to four times a month, and when the wife requests, I make a mead or a wine. After that first beer, I made a lot of extract beers, and have since upgraded to making it like the big boys, on a way smaller scale of course.
Now I make beers, wines, meads and liqueurs on a regular basis, including imperial stout, oatmeal stout, citrus IPA, American pale ale, winter strong ale, Irish red, Newcastle clone, Belgian blond ale (a Grimburgen clone), summer raspberry wit, a session light ale, Gewurztraminer, peach Chardonnay and triple berry melomel mead.
I made 12-ounce root beer bottle rockets once, too, but couldn't drink any of them because the minute you uncapped it, the carbonation blew the root beer out of the bottle or propelled it across the yard if you did it right.
I've never made my own booze, nor have I ever particularly been motivated to do so. Part of it is because I simply just don't drink enough to dedicate time and effort to something I likely won't drink all that much. I suppose it'd be fun to make my own tasty libations, but for me, why bother when there are so many beers, whiskeys, wines and other assorting spirits that I have yet to try? There's still a whole world of alcohol out there for me to sample and hone my palate on. I'll explore my own personally crafted (and presumably crappy) brews and beverages when I've got a few more years of alcoholism under my belt.
In a last-ditch effort to save my ailing marriage, I decided my husband at the time and I needed a hobby. Randomly, I picked homebrewing beer. After investing in all of the supplies, we had a pretty good run and made three or four batches of beer, including my favorite brew that we concocted for the December holidays called Pagan Porter. The first few batches we made from a kit, but the final batch – the porter – was created from grains which was a lot more interesting and labor intensive. During my brief stint as a homebrewer, I learned a lot about the science of beer-making, but even more about why my former spouse and I really don't mix well.
After trying a range of infusions in Italy and France – and spending a lifetime seeing my grandmother and parents making boozy cherries – I was eager to try to make something myself. I'm a big fan of hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds and so my efforts have typically gone in that direction, thanks to trips to the Dordogne and Piemonte. I've never had massive success, though, mostly because I really only dabbled. I've never devoted the time required to perfect techniques, but recently I discovered a cache of little bottles of liqueur flavorings that belonged to my late cousin and that's re-awakened my interest. So, stay tuned.
I've made a bunch of booze in my day, although the experiments began and ended, for the most part, in my early 20s. I bought some homebrewing equipment and brewed my first batch of beer to coincide with Brett Favre's third MVP (Brett's Brown Ale, I called it). I made a raspberry beer from berries I picked in Mequon. I made a hoppy ale once that turned out reasonable well, too. I even tried my hand at wine, with less success, although one bottle was not too bad. Really, I think I just enjoyed making the labels. More recently, I fermented some fruit juice into bum wine with a kit I bought online, and that was horrible. All of this is a lot of work. Too much work, really, for me.
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