February 20, 2013

Welcome! I’m Mattia, brewmaster, head fermentationist, and high brewpriest here at FermeLab. I've been homebrewing for about two years now and it’s come time to accept I've little to show for it. I drank all the beer, for one thing. My meticulous notes, scrawled and beer stained, are records of how I intended to do one thing and ended up elsewhere. I feel I need somewhere to reflect on just how the hell I manage to get a drinkable batch of beer using repurposed household items and cobbled together, jerry-rigged, processes. I need more from this “hobby”, and I’m going to get more by recounting the stories of the beer made at FermeLab.

I suppose 6 - 12 million years ago is as good a starting point as any. That's when our ancestors closest to the time of the chimp-human split developed digestion able to breakdown ethanol in levels found in over ripe, fermenting fruit. I’m guessing they hoarded these rum-apples and waited for the magic to happen, successfully imprinting the alcoholic urge on our genes and collective conscious.

Millions of years later, 9500 - 3000BC, Neolithic men and women around the globe began to independently discover brewing. These brave souls most likely stumbled upon a container of water with grain in it, and decided to take a sip. “What the hell?” they probably figured, “I’ll try it just to spice up my soon to be enslaved, hazard filled life.” They fucking loved it! They loved it so much, once they sobered up and figured out how to recreate the magi, they settled down and built the first great civilizations. Thus, making booze is perhaps man’s first piece of biotechnological knowhow. And it wouldn’t be until thousands of years later that we actually understood how the hell it was possible.

In 1857, Louis Pasteur proved yeast were a. living organisms and, b. responsible for the bioalchemy of sugar-into- alcohol found in beer. People were just fucking winging it till then! They just did what was traditionally done and it worked. Vikings even passed down a brew stick, which was totally and utterly inoculated and infected with yeast and bacteria. They couldn’t screw it up if they tried, and that’s the inspiration behind FermeLab.

Our humble mantra, “Today, beer.” reflects the fact that homebrewing can be as simple or as complicated as it’s made to be, and that no matter what, we’re going to ferment something by the end of brewday, damn it. To brew here, you need tenacity like that because typically, things start out simple, and then shit gets complicated. Like when we broke a glass thermometer into an almost finished batch of brew. We just kept telling ourselves “Life finds a way” and, “The yeast’ll figure it out.” But it had to be dumped. Then there was that time I meant to order 3 lbs. of grain but ordered 13 lbs. That beer had much more alcohol than intended. And I’ve definitely grabbed a pot or two by the steel portion after just having dumped boiling water out of it. It isn’t easy to brew with all those expletives flying around, and the Neosporin slicked hands. Theoretically, by simply being born into the modern world we should be much better brewers than our predecessors. But shit just happens sometimes. Lots of the times. It gives me that sensation of feeling connected you know, like I’m one with the humans that came before me. Transcendence! That’s it.

Here at FermeLab, we argue there are no mistakes in homebrewing. If something goes unexpectedly, simply write it off as spontaneous experimentation. And the best part, If you’re good enough, every experiment ends with something alcoholic you can drink and enjoy. Professor Malcolm was right, life does find a way. Beer is probably going to be made regardless of what you think is wrong or right. To go with the brewflow, this is the dao.

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