In lavish praise of home brewing

This is not a pint of my friends cider.
We’ve had ample song, quite a few women but never any wine on this blog. That all gets fixed today because I visited my friend who is brewing his own cider!
Let me tell you a story. Y’know why pubs are called pubs? Most of you will know it’s short for public house. But why are they called public houses? Well because waaaaay back in the mists of time, when a chap would brew some beer, he put up a flag over his house and his house became ‘public’ while the beer was drunk. The flags became wooden signs and the houses became bespoke drinking establishments and now I can lean against them. Excellent. This was supposed to segway into a praise of home brewing but kinda failed, hey. Home brewing! My friend has been making some cider in a bucket in his flat, apparently much to the annoyance of his flatmates, and this Thursday (yesterday if I can write this in time, no small task) it was time to head round to his and sample it. This was one of the moments of my not unexciting life where I very consciously think “do I have a will, and if so, is it filled out properly” because my friends cider could conceivably end my life.

I decided to walk, because I’m stubborn like that. It was sunny when I set off and naturally God saw that I was going for a walk and decided now would be a perfect time for Edinburgh’s first snowfall of the year as punishment for my arrogance. Soaked through, tired and secretly longing for death, I arrived. Apparently brewing is a complex and unintuitive process. We needed to decant from the distillation jar into a big bucket for storage and conditioning. It is drinkable though, and we siphoned off a half-pint to try.

Y’know what? It’s alright.

I’ve always been a firm beliver in the notion that cider ought to taste scrumpy; for lack of a less pretentious word. It ideally ought to taste like it has been made in a shed, rough around the edges like and this one certainly does that. We’d grabbed some Magners as an example of a plain, perfectly drinkable middle of the road type dealio to contrast with our cupboard-brewed inexpertly crafted mindfuck and y’all will never guess our tasting notes. The cupboard cider is more extreme than Magners in every way. There is more sweetness, more sharpness and more dryness than in Magners, all competing for time. First comes an overwhelming sugary sweetness (and more sugar was added with conditioning to carbonate this beast and add more freakin’ sweetness so Christ knows what it’ll be like in a few weeks) followed immediately by a cider-apple-bite bitterness, both of which are chased swiftly down the gullet by a Viking of dryness like two buxom milkmaids. It’s a hell of a pint and it’ll only get weirder.
Y’see, home brewing is a dying art. Sure you can get kits but they come with sachets of powder rather than bags of malts, and fewer and fewer people realise or know how a pint gets from being a bunch of ingredients to being in your glass. Rather like rock and roll, modern drinks are just homogenised and recycled and made by the lowest bidder. I kind of like that. I know wherever I go and whatever interesting local drinks are available, the mass market plonk is there and I know that a bottle of Miller is a beer, not a great one but it’ll be cold and wet and not unpleasant. This is the second batch of cider from my electronic music producer turned brewing maestro pal, and I am reliably informed that the first batch tasted “like badgers”. It’s a tiny brew and unless you are friends with my friend and you’ve already made reservations (I believe all 15 litres are spoken for) then you’ll have to wait ‘till next time and get in early. Like great underground rock music, made by people with a passion for the art making the best professional conditions in their flats on a budget, and will only ever be enjoyed by a few people; but those few people will have a great time. Get into brewing at least once. Look up the nearest brewing shop or get a kit. Make your own alcohol because legal alcohol is taxed and every drink you take makes the government richer.
End of the day I had to run for my bus, but while running and in the rain, I was stopped by a gentleman who asked if I would “like to buy any grass or acid?” There but for the grace of god go I, pusher man. I didn’t even know people still sold mind expansion aids! I thought that all went out when Thatcher got in. I love Tollcross.
Written under duress by Steven.

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