What do you get when you mix 4 dudes, 50lbs of gingerbread men, 4 hours of lateness, and a crazy brew day story? You get a brew day that runs away from you as fast as it can, laughing all the way out to the horizon. And you revel in every minute of it.
After a late-night of messaging back and forth with James Carlyle, the brewer at Ingenious (and formerly at Whole Foods), he told me to “Call in sick tomorrow and come through. SpindleTap is in the house.”
Initially, I said no thanks. I’ve got a lot of work to do. But when I realized he meant to brew and not just to drink beer, I reconsidered. Thankfully I’ve got a flexible work schedule despite being buried!
Fast forward to 6am, and my alarm’s on snooze for the 7th time. I was supposed to be up at 5, but that’s tough when you’re up ’til 2 working. It’s even tougher when you’re unable to fall asleep because of the excitement.
Never one to take a day off, I grab my laptop, camera, and hit the road for Humble.
I arrived to a puzzled James and Derek, with reggae blasting out of the brewery’s bay doors. They didn’t think I’d come through. Plus I was an hour late, so I earned the confused glares fair and square.
The crisp morning welcomed a hard day of work, and that it was. The Ingenious SpindleTap collab brew day was going to get interesting. *Mr. Burns voice*
Not too long after, Garrison from SpindleTap showed up, case of beer in one hand and a Topo Chico in the other.
Throughout the day there was a who’s who of guests popping in from some cider peddlers to Rick at Hop Stop, and even a farmer and a handful of his friends. They brought us all Whataburger! Great dudes, them farmers, I tell ya hwhut.
Anyhow, up until now, this brew day all sounds like rainbows and butterflies, but it was far from it. Me and Garrison being late meant that Derek and James got started without us. Beer don’t wait.
While mashing in, gobs of gingerbread men went for their final swim in piping hot sugar water. They’d get their revenge, though.
While mashing in, the power cut out. It wasn’t just a little brown out, either. It was one of those, “There’s construction around the corner, and we’re screwed for at least 30 minutes” kind of things.
Ok. No big deal. Seal everything off, check the numbers, crack a beer a little earlier than expected, and let’s talk about beer while we watch beer not being made. Cool.
Metabolic pathways, flow valves, and all kinds of weird conversations took place while we all nursed a beer. I got a crash course in how truly nerdy brewing is, and I was loving every bit of it.
Roughly 35 minutes later, the power cuts back on. Ok. Back to work. Let’s finish this mash and push the wort to the boil kettle. Easy enough, right?
When transferring from the wort to boil, the sparge got stuck. Dang. 0 for 2. Basically, there are two big (very big) boiling pots. One cooks the grain and the water into wort, and then the wort is transferred over to the second big (very big) pot to boil down.
Those gingerbread men weren’t going down without a fight, and they clogged up the transfer.
So, in other words, the hot liquid was moving very slowly from one pot to another. (Very slowly.) So slowly that we began trying to force the issue. It took a while, but eventually, we had success.
Once we got that fixed, it was time to clean up the cooked grain and dead gingerbread men that were left over in the mash tun. “Rake grain” they said. Cool. Let’s do it!
Usually, the grain is raked into a large hopper that’s carried by a forklift. It’s then hauled off to a farm. The cows would eventually get their grain, but not before the gingerbread men stuck it to us one last time.
I stepped away to take a phone call because I was working all day, and then I came back to a metric ton of piping hot liquid grain all over the floor. It looked like a bowl of grape nuts met the BP oil spill on Ingenious’ floor. (Sidenote, Sydney from Southern Yankee has been spot on when it comes to brewers, complaints, and floors.)
Derek, Garrison and James were all just laughing it up.
“Grab a shovel, homie.” Garrison told me through a full-on belly-laugh.
Shovel in hand, I got busy.
Eventually, we cleaned it all up, but not without a ton of laughs and a couple of perfectly-timed beers. If I hear Garrison ask one more time about the solid-state separator, I’m gonna smack somebody.
All in all it was a mess of a day, but despite it all, somehow we hit our numbers before it was time to call it quits. I felt glad to be in James, Garrison, and Derek’s capable hands when it came to this crazy brew day, so I didn’t feel like a complete failure.
“Yo, James!” I yelled above the Slim Thug that was blaring at the time. “On a scale of 1-10, how much of a wreck is today!?”
“8” he shouted back with confidence. “Lemme tell you about the 10, though!”
We spent our time cleaning and talking about messes that were far bigger than this one, and somehow everybody was grateful because this one could’ve been worse. Far worse.
All I know is, I hate messes, and I would’ve been P I S S E D if not for these guys and all their joking.
The Ingenious SpindleTap Collab is going to be a gingerbread stout, and it’s set to release some time in December. It’ll be an Ingenious SpindleTap collab that includes SpindleTap coffee, and gingerbread from Texas’ oldest bakery, Naeglin’s Bakery.
Keep your eyes on Ingenious’ social media for more info as it becomes available.
Beers to you, Houston