What’s brewing in Slow Happy Runner Land?

All of a sudden, lots of things are brewing and bubbling and simmering, or about to do so.

Remember when I told you about the few bits of cabbage that I’d managed to rescue from the slugs and salvage from my garden? Those 2.2 pounds of cabbage now comprise about 25% of the sauerkraut that is bubbling and brewing on my kitchen counter. I had to go out and buy three large heads of organic cabbage and add them to mine in order to make a worthwhile-sized batch. I’m pleased to report that my cabbage tastes more flavorful than the store-bought stuff anyway.

I’ve never made sauerkraut before, although given my German ancestry it’s something I’ve always wanted to try. I had to buy a large (expensive) crock for this project, so I really hope it turns out well. I’ll need to make many batches of fermented vegetables in the future to fully amortize the cost of that crock!

I started this project a day and a half ago, and it’s now beginning to ferment. I’ll move it to a cooler place in another day or so once the bubbling really gets going. If all goes well, I’ll be eating sauerkraut in a month.

Meanwhile I’m getting ready for a real brewing adventure. Many years ago, back when I was making my own bread and yogurt, I ventured into home brewing. Having lived in Scotland for a while as a student, I’d developed a taste for British ales. But imports were hard to come by, and the craft-brewing craze had not yet taken off in the US. The laws were changing and home brewing was not strictly illegal anymore… so I thought, why not?

Loking back, I realize now that I was quite the pioneer in those days. I managed to find a source for equipment and ingredients, and I brewed (as I recall) three pretty darned good batches of ale. Then somehow, my interests moved on to other things. Meanwhile craft brewing exploded, and it became easier to find really good local ales. When I moved to Washington, I got rid of the brewing equipment that I hadn’t touched in years.

Here in Washington (which happens to be one of the great hop-growing regions of the world) our local craft brewers have gone way, over-the-top overboard with hops. I love hops as much as the next girl, but the really “big” IPAs are not my favorites. Lately, my taste has gone in a mellower, sweeter, less-is-more direction. I’m quite enjoying porters and even the occasional stout.

My friend and I began to experiment with expanding and educating our beer palates. Then a brewing supply store opened right downtown. We went to a brewing club meeting and… you can guess the rest.

After a couple more weeks of research and taste testing, we went back to the brewing supply store and walked out of there with carboys, buckets, a beautiful stainless steel kettle, bottle brushes, tubing, various scientific instruments, and the ingredients for our first batch of beer. We decided to start with a safe choice, just a basic “American amber ale.” For the uninitiated, there is an official list of “beer styles,” each of which is characterized by a distinctive footprint that includes yeast type, brewing procedure, color, bitterness, and of course alcohol content. “American amber ale” is (as you might guess) a reddish ale. It’s hoppy but not overly so. The recipe we chose uses two kinds of barley malt and two kinds of hops… no complex formulas or finicky additives. Basically just boil, cool, ferment, and bottle.

I moved furniture out of my former office to make room for the brewery. It’s an ideal space because there is a stove, a sink, and lots of room to maneuver. It’s downstairs where the temperature is a more or less constant and predictable 65 degrees. I can’t think of a better way to repurpose a home office for post-corporate use.

Tomorrow is brewing day. In three weeks I should be popping the cap off my first bottle of Slow Happy Brew.

Now I’m reading about sourdough starter. I did that, too, a long time ago. I think I’ll try making sourdough bread again!

So besides all this sudden culinary activity, what else is brewing?

I’m in the final countdown until my two half marathons, on September 23 and October 7. I’m still trying to think of the first one as “the last long training run” for the second one, but I’m sure that come race #1 day I’ll be out there pushing it just a little bit. However, my training runs have been a bit erratic lately, so I really don’t know what to expect. If I go out on 9/23 and my knees are happy, I’ll have a great day, maybe even another PR without too much effort (I recently ran 10 miles at a sub-10 minute pace). I honestly think that on a downhill course I will beat my hilly PR 2:16:10 without pushing too hard. But if my knees decide they aren’t happy or if 9/23 happens to be a warm day, that race will be a slog. However, it finishes at a microbrew festival, so I’ll drag myself to the finish if I have to.

The Octber 7 race in Victoria BC is one that I do take seriously. I ran that one last year in the seemingly-impossible-at-the-time time of 2:40:33. I’d love to shave 26 minutes or so (that is, 2 minutes a mile) off that time. It’s doable… if my knees are happy that day. So my top priority between now and 10/7 is to keep those knees happy.

Fortunately, my knees are thriving on hiking, so when I’m not running, I’m hiking. My friend and I did a strenuous uphill hike a couple of weeks ago. Views like these keep me coming back for more:

The past few days there has been a touch of autumn in the air. We did a lower altitude hike hoping to see maple and alder leaves starting to turn, but it’s still too early for that. It was a glorious day, though, and we enjoyed the sun shining through this young stand of red alders and douglas firs:

So, what’s brewing, indeed? Just about everything! Slow Happy Runner Land is bubbling and humming with new and exciting things. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow may bring.

What’s brewing in your world?

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Posted on September 11, 2012, in Brewing, Hiking, Nature, Running and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Jerry said your home office repurposing is a step in the right direction! I absolutely love it! When I started reading, I was hoping you would say you went out and bought new equipment for brewing – and you did! Excellent.

  2. And if you get into playing with hops, it can be be slow hoppy brew 🙂

  3. Your home brewing sounds delightful! The rise in micro-brews is really nice. I gave my nephew a mini-version, more of a kit, for making his own brew and I think it was a hit! I particularly loved that the home office was repurposed into a brewery! Talk about a great big giant step away from the old corporate life! Good for you! Debra

    • Debra,

      I tried one of those kits once, back in the mid-90s. I think it was a Christmas present from Kurt. It produced drinkable but not memorable beer.

      I want to make memories! What I (and my equally nerdy friend) are most excited about is creating our own recipes and moving toward all-grain (as opposed to malt extract) recipes. I even bought an app to help me analyze our concoctions.

      Yes, I smile every time I think about the transformation taking place in my former home office!

  4. A brewery is such a better use of a work space than the trapping of a corporate past.

  5. Look at you, brewing! That’s exciting. Can’t wait to find out how it goes!
    I’d like to make WINE. I don’t like beer at all. I tasted some the other night at Babe’s insistence. I had to brush my teeth to get rid of the awful taste. Hahaha.

    • I like wine too! We do have local wineries here making some very good wine, but it’s almost impossible to grow grapes here. Grapes have to be shipped in from eastern Washington or beyond. With beer, on the other hand, I have the possibility of growing my own hops and maybe even part of the barley, some day…

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