I’m not one to waste time, not even when I’m sick. I’ve been sick, nothing serious, just a good wallop of the common cold. Perhaps two nights digging clams in the freezing rain lowered my immunities. The good thing about being sick is that it slows my routine. Couch bound for two days, I read a lot about beer.
Beer is important to me. I know beer doesn’t fall into the whole hunting, fishing, gathering, and growing theme, but making beer is about sustainability and self-reliance. So, I think it falls in the realm of my project. God forbid another prohibition or zombie apocalypse, but I’ll be ready.
I dropped by a brewers’ supply store in Bremerton after taking my kid, Jaden, to his orthodontist. Jade and I browsed shelves of carboys, flexible tubing, stoppers, and books. We peered down through plexi-glass covered barrels of barley, hops, wheat, malt, and other bulk consumables. The place held a wholesome waft of a feed store.
I’d never been in brewers' supply store before. The smell was familiar and comforting, but I couldn’t find my bearings. Discerning what was what was almost as tough as figuring out what I needed to purchase.
Two men worked the store. One looked like a younger version of the other. I assumed this was a father-son operation. At first I appreciated the distance the men showed me, allowing me to shop without pressure, but after a while, I felt lost. The older man shuffled off to a back room as I approached the counter, leaving the son to assist me.
“I’d like to learn to make beer.”
“Next class is February 12th.”
“Darn I won’t be in town. Perhaps you might show me a kit, or a book, or…”
“Most people need a class.”
“Yes. I’m sure it helps, but I’ve been reading a lot about beer. Do you have a particular kit or recipes you could recommend?”
He handed me a flyer outlining basic equipment and pricing. “It’s expensive to start."
“I actually have most of the equipment, but I’m stumped on ingredients.”
“Beginners should start with malt extract, make a foolproof batch the first go.”
He led me to a shelf of giant soup cans full of extracts, but walked away before I had the chance to formulate questions. The lack of interaction confused me. The guy didn’t seem rude or condescending, just indifferent, like he couldn’t decide if he wanted to help.
I picked a can of Cooper’s Irish Stout and struggled to gather the rest of the supplies. His eyes lit up at my selection. “You’re gonna like that Stout. Good pick.”
"I'm a Guinness fan, so I'm hoping..."
"You picked the right can, alright." He warmed a little, and gave me the low down on bottle caps and sifting through recycle bins for bottles. For a moment, we connected. He even helped Jaden load my purchases in the Subaru before wishing us luck.
Jade and I hit the road, but the transaction stayed on my mind. I tapped Jade's earphones to signal my desire to conversate. “Hey, don’t you think it was kind of weird how those brewery guys acted toward us?”
“Not really. They’re just really into beer."
“I like beer too.”
“Yeah, but not like they like beer. Beer is their art, their whole life.”
“That’s very perceptive of you.”
“No offense, Mom, but you don’t look like the beer type.”
“Really? What do I look like?”
“Cake. You look like you make cake.
“Wow, that kind of stings.”
“It shouldn't. Cake is good. You make good cakes, especially cupcakes.”
“You don’t think I can make beer?
“Yeah, but probably not good beer. Make beer cake. I bet you can make a good beer cake.”
Jade slipped his earphones back in. I slid on a pair of sunglasses, cranked the heat, and opened the sunroof. I freed my pony tail from an elastic band and adjusted the rear view mirror, so I could watch my hair whip through the opening. I smiled at a cake-face reflection, wondering at what age I began to look like cake instead of beer, and was it possible to turn a cake life around.