Furious 7 was a movie that hit me in just the right way at just the right time of my life. One notable scene depicts Kurt Russell telling Vin Diesel all about the virtues of "Belgian ale", swishing it around his glass, praising monks for their brewing but condemning their celibacy. He offers some to Papa Diesel, who says "...I’m more of a Corona man.". Chief Russell replies, "I figured you might say that!" and pulls out a perfectly arranged bucket of ice cold Coronas. The rest of the movie features several top quality Corona placements.
Cut to a few months later. I'm at a Mexican restaurant with some friends. I see on the menu that they sell buckets of four Coronas. We laugh and talk about how stupid that product placement was. We then order a bucket of four Coronas and laugh and pose for photos with the bucket. We buy another bucket. Wow that product placement was stupid! Maybe 10 minutes into bucket number two I realised what idiots we were. We thought we were so smart with our ironic Corona purchases. Product placement is powerful.
So that's my relationship with Corona. My last few brews had all had some kind of special twist. I valued them too much to the point where I was hesitant to drink them. I wanted to just make some beer-ass beer for drinking. I decided to make a Belgian ale, not a Corona, called "Not Corona" in honour of Father Russell. But also I wanted to make a cerveza, not Not Corona, called "Not Not Corona" for Vin Daddy.
The big bottles of Not Not Corona. Big and ready for straight up drinking.
I started with Not Not Corona, using a Munton's cerveza homebrewing kit. The resultant beer was - and still is - a beer-ass beer as I had hoped, although when the yeast sediment from the bottom of the bottles gets disturbed it gives the beer a passionfruit taste. Turns out it's really hard to not shake a bottle up when I'm getting my drink on.
Feedback: "Better than actual Corona."
At this point I had committed to brewing at full production. I had the next 3 brews already planned but in order to maximise my output while the fermenter was in use I decided to go back to Berri Bottle Cider - with a twist!
This was an exciting experiment because it was low risk in terms of financial cost and time. All I needed was some: juice, ginger, sugar and yeast. Cheap as chips.
The production was the same as the normal Berri Bottle Cider except I put in a couple of knobs of the ginger. I slightly crushed the ginger as a means of subdivision to increase the reactivity with and rinsed the ginger in boiling water to help sterilise it.
The results exceeded my expectations. The apple juice really amplified the flavour of the ginger.
Feedback: I only made 3 litres. People liked the sips they had but thought it was too sweet. I should make this one again.
Following up on Not Not Corona I needed to make a Belgian ale. I purchased a pilsner brewing kit. Excited about this upcoming brew once it was fermenting I told my friend Ford about it.
"I'm making that Belgian ale I was talking about before."
"Oh cool. A white Belgian ale?"
"No. Damn that sounds like a better idea."
A very quick Google search reveals that a pilsner comes from the Czech Republic and that I know nothing.
GREAT. Now I have a fermenter filled with a beer I didn't want. I was three days into fermenting and needed to change course.
Pre-intervention Not Corona in the fermenter.
Of course I wasn't going to dump out a brew in progress... I needed to give the pilsner a twist. Enter "Second Night In Bangkok".
Picking the pieces of Not Corona off the floor I made a sort-of mash with a fistfull of dried chilli, 5 chopped up strands of lemongrass and 2 tablespoons of sugar. I blended this and then re-boiled it to make sure it was sterile. It smelled good. It tasted spicy, bitter and sweet. Good enough.
The naming choice was obvious. It may well have come before the decision to use chilli and lemongrass.
I opened the fermenter and poured it into the brew that was well in progress. At that moment it hit me what a trainwreck this brew would be. Too late now. The additional sugars and carbohydrates this mash had added made the yeast go bananas as it bubbled like crazy for the next few days.
The end result was a beer with just the right amount of kick to it with the sweetness and aroma of the lemongrass. The bitterness of the lemongrass blended into the background of the beer. Good save. It wasn't the Not Corona I had set out to make. Perhaps this was the true Not Not Corona.
I thought that maybe because it tasted so much like a curry in a beer that some coconut milk wouldn't go astray in one glass I had. Now, it wasn't bad. It wasn't good either. I did end up pouring the latter half of that mess down the sink though.
Feedback: "It tastes like a white-lady curry."
Okay. Now was the time for the Belgian ale. I asked around a brewing shop about making a white Belgian ale. The guy there directed me to 2kg tin that had everything you need to make Hoegaarden in it. No need for a brew booster. Just a tin and some yeast. Sure thing.
I chose the name Hoë園 for several reasons. The first reason being I wanted to show off my Japanese. The Japanese word for park is 公園 (/kou-enn/) and breaking down the kanji in that you get 公 (/kou/) meaning "public" and 園 (/enn/) meaning "garden". It rhymed so I went with it. Hoenn is also the name of one of the regions in Pokémon, which I didn't realise until someone pointed it out to me. I didn't stick with the name Not Corona as I felt using the specific Hoegaarden called for me to lead more to that. The umlaut on the 'e' was because I am an idiot and assumed Hoegaarden had an accented e and didn't bother to fact check this.
My wonderful girlfriend, Reetha, impressively drew up all the labels for the Hoë園 - kanji and all. She had never dipped into the wild world of kanji before and did a fantastic job over several grueling hours. I cannot get over how amazing her handwriting is.
At brew time I opened the tin and to my surprise it had a some coriander seeds suspended in the mash inside. Super authentic. As was my custom I tasted some of the mash and - my word - it was the most delectable mash I had ever tasted. It was sweet with a hint of orange and didn't taste like Vegemite the way most mashes tend to. I had high hopes for this brew.
Come bottling day the liquid that came out of the fermenter was incredibly murky. I figured (with total solar eclipse of doubt) that this was just what a white Belgian ale was like. I was instructed to let it sit bottled for 4 weeks before drinking. Over the course of the 4 weeks each 1L bottle settled to have 1cm of yeast sediment at the bottom.
I've had two bottles of Hoë園 so far. Both have been great contending with Humble B as my favourite brew. It tastes better that actual Hoegaarden to me, lighter, sweeter and crisper. The only issue is that it requires ultra-careful pouring so as not to release a tsunami of yeast.
Feedback: "I have not had enough."
I hadn't made an amber ale yet so I thought I should. I grabbed an amber ale brewing kit and off I went. No tricks with this one.
Fearful of repeating the murkiness issues of Hoë園 I bought a sachet of a fining agent to clear the brew. I poured this in part way into the fermentation and whisked it in. *fszzzzzzzzzzzzt* It all started foaming up stopping juuuuust short of overflowing. It was all shaken up. I'm pretty sure that was the exact opposite of what I wanted. I mean, it made sense for a precipitation reaction but still...
This was not a creative beer this time around so I didn't put much creativity into the name.
After being bottled for about 2 weeks Jacob and I tried some. Tasted like passionfruit. I checked in the cellar. All the bottles where murky. I guess it needs to settle more. That taste test was about a week ago. I'll try to remember to try some tonight.
Feedback: "Umm... This tastes like passionfruit."
Those are all my brews up to date. I've found writing this recap quite cathartic as I've had the opportunity to reflect on the last year. I've realised that the previous year with brewing now serves as a timeline with many of the brews I made as allegories for my state of mind at the time I made them.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
-Bob HaydenWarning: This blog should demonstrate that I am by no means an expert. I can't guarantee all information here is scientifically accurate. I learn at my own slow pace as I discover and try new things and recall things from school & university.