It was the best of times and it was the worst of times. My first attempt at fermentation was not a huge success. Some friends of mine and I stole raisins from the cafeteria in college and attempted to make “raisin jack.” We mashed them in a galvinized wash tub, added sugar and yeast, and covered it with a blanket and stuck it under my dorm bunkbed. The smell was horrendous. It was a success in that it took off and created alcohol. Almost undrinkable, cloudy, brown liquid. I say almost undrinkable because, drink it we did. It produced the desired effect and was also a natural laxative.
I received a book on beer brewing for Christmas 14 years ago and decided to give it another go. I started by fermenting straight apple juice. Using techniques from the “Home brewer’s Bible” the Joy of Home Brewing it fermented nicely. (Thank you Charlie Papazian.) Drinkable but, light for my taste. I then graduated to the kit in a can. Just add contents to boiling water and add the yeast packet (that is packed under the lid of the can) and ferment away.
Within a short time, I added some whole grain and hops to the mix. Soon, I began using all grain and the beer just kept getting better. I started mixing in adjuncts like brown sugar and honey (a practice that continues today).
I never thought that I would be able to turn this into a living. As I began bottling more beer than I could drink, my friends were welcome to take the new product home. Unknown to me Dan, the chef at the Firehouse, brought my beer to the Firehouse and gave it to the people in charge. I was completely embarrassed.
Turns out, they liked it. I applied to be the assistant brewer and was eventually stolen away from a job I loathed and became the brewer.
Four years later the dream continues. I have leaned a lot since the “raisin jack” incident and continue learning and experimenting more every day… I haven’t worked a day since.