A Frolic Of His Own :: Chapter 2
"The sacred pint alone can unbind the tongue…" --James Joyce, Ulysses
A move across the Bay to get some extra space was in the works. After several misses, we found a single-family craftsman in Oakland that had a backyard with apple and fig trees, and best of all—a stellar garage with an unfinished bathroom and a concrete floor and drain. I was sold. From that moment on, the garage—ah I mean Oakland, became our home.
It was in that garage my own personal brewery was born. Didn't someone say the garage was the birthplace of American ingenuity? Probably. My situation was nothing like that, but it was a place to tinker.
And tinker I did. I purchased an oak barrel for sour beers. I began experimenting with pitching different kinds of bacteria and yeast: Brettanomyces, Pediococcus, and lactobacillus. I built a 7-tap keezer and a cold box for lagering. I had a single tier-3 burner homebrew rig welded and plumbed for my brewhouse. I began experimenting with yeast propagation and building a yeast library. You know, the usual stuff.
I also became more engaged with the homebrewing community, entered a few competitions, and contributed to some Brewlab events. I placed second for a Baltic Porter in the MoreBeer competition, and in the top seven for the Pilsner Urquell homebrewer's competition.
It became increasingly clear to me and my girlfriend that brewing was becoming more than a hobby, and I decided to apply for the American Brewers Guild Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering program. I was accepted into the June 2012 class. After months of assigned reading and lectures, I was ready for some hands on experience. I flew to Middlebury Vermont for the final exam week. There, I got a shiny new pair of brewing boots, and dove head first into brewing on a 20 BBL system. We met for sessions all week long, with lectures, lab, and sensory analysis scattered throughout the day. Before I knew it, I was flying back to the west coast with a diploma in hand.
The next day, the car was packed, and we were driving to Paso Robles, CA.
Ah, Paso. Where herds of deer bed down on your front lawn, and holiday floats are flatbed trucks, and the community comes together to throw epic block parties. But, we didn't go to Paso for the hootenanny. I was there for my internship at Firestone Walker Brewing Company, and my new wife was gracious enough to join me.
Several chapters could be written about my time at Firestone, but I'll spare you all the details. What an amazing opportunity it turned out to be, and what wonderful folks they all are. My time there really helped to shape my brewing methodology, and at the same time taught me what industrial brewing was all about. There is something special that happens when passion and education meets manual labor. Finding myself soaking wet, spraying foaming caustic, scrubbing the floors, and yelling over the mechanical hum to my fellow brewers about the things we love, made me never want another desk job again.
On the car ride back to Oakland, the decision was made. We would open a brewery.