I remember the beer lady of Kircheimbolanden. It’s been more than 25 years since I rang the bell to purchase a case of her craft, but that first hefeweizen lingers on my tongue. Kircheimbolanden tucks neatly in historical Rhineland, situated about 30 km north-east of Kaiserslautern, Germany and near the French border. I visited Kircheimbolanden this summer, but everything had changed. I couldn’t find the house where the beer lady once lived. Cobblestone streets and her doorstep were swallowed up in the modernization of the 1368 village.
At nineteen, I knew nothing about beer. Stationed with the Army in a remote nuclear physical security site, I had plenty of time to learn. Some of the best cultural opportunities are wasted on the youth. Cultivating my beer taste buds on the beer lady’s labor was one of these wasted opportunities. I never knew just how good I had it.
Becoming my own beer lady is an exciting prospect to entertain. My original beer lady was slightly older than I am now, a touch heftier, and of fair hair and skin. But her hands were like mine – working hands, short, wide and void of manicure, like a young boy’s hands.
I feel a little embarrassed about using a hopped malt concentrate. If my beer lady were here, and if she spoke English, I imagine she'd give me an earful. But everyone needs to start somewhere. So far, the process has been easy, a little too easy. I boiled water, opened the can of extract, added it to the boiling water, and then added some malt. The process was not too different from making a bowl of tomato soup for lunch.
Adding yeast once the mixture cooled created a little more excitement, but not much. My next step is the waiting game. I’ll wait a week and then transfer my batch into a clean carboy, and then I’ll wait another week before bottling. I predict the longest wait will be the two weeks between the bottling process and the drinking process. In the meantime, I’ll be reading recipes and learning about techniques to wean me off the concentrate.