One of the things we do to keep from getting bored brewing the same thing over and over is to brew some interesting and sometimes off the wall brews. This coming May 31, running through till June 2, we will be featuring a few of these pilot or experimental brews.
This event also coincides with my Grandfather’s 100 birthday. If he were alive today, he’d be there, though he might enjoy himself a little too much. I remember the stories he used to tell about his father. He was an avid homebrewer. My Grandfather had the duty of priming the bottles with a pinch of sugar, thinking if one pinch was good, two pinches would be even better. You can imagine what happened next, it was 4th of July in the basement. I shudder to think what the clean up must have been like. So happy birthday Granddad, I will be sure to hoist a few pints in you memory.
My Grandfather on my mother’s side, whom we called Morfar (Danish for Mother’s Father), was also a homebrewer and wine maker. His father had a beer related position. He was the Director of the Botanical Gardens in Copenhagen, which was owned by Carlsberg, more on that later. Morfar mainly made wine. My Grandmother, Mormor (Mother’s Mother) made a lot of jams and marmalade, instead of tossing the dregs and other waste, Morfar would collect it and ferment it. He was a chemical engineer, so he knew a thing or two about fermenting things. His wines were good, I especially liked his plum wine. I bought him a beer kit one Christmas and he brewed it and stored it until summer, when the whole family would be there. He told me he watered it down because the ABV was around 9% or so. I believe it was a pale ale if I remember correctly. My cousins, brothers, and I drank copious amounts of it by a bonfire in the back yard, we’d often stay out there till the wee hours, enjoy the fire and watch shooting stars.
My Morfar was a real inspiration when it came to brewing. Most of the stuff I brewed when I was a teenager, I was 14 when I started homebrewing, tasted really bad. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but it taught me a few things. To remedy this, my Morfar helped me build my first still. I didn’t really drink any of it, but it sure cleaned the floors damn well.
I mentioned my Great Grandfather on my mother’s side earlier. He was a botanist and archaeologist, I heard many a story of digs he had gone on, from bog people to ancient settlements in Greenland, it made me want to become an archaeologist, but I became a brewer instead. He was on the board of directors of Carlsberg. My mother told me a story once about her Farfar (Father’s Father, hey, you’re learning a little Danish!) planning a little party. He called up the brewery and told them he needed some beer. They asked how many, he was thinking in bottles and not cases, so when he said twenty, well…that’s a lot of beer and in Denmark cases have 30 bottles. He was surprised when 20 cases were dropped off.
I have other stories about various Great Grandfathers, but I’ll probably mix them up a little, they all brewed or made wine. On my father’s mother’s side, down in Conway North Carolina, the farm had up until recently stayed in the family, the original land grant was signed in 1703. Anyway, they grew Scuppernong grapes and made a sweet dessert wine with it. One of my other great grandfathers on my Dad’s side, made his own hooch, did this during the 20′s. He had a still made out of an old artillery shell, I would have loved seeing that. Long story short, no one on his block got the flu, he was out passing out his medicine until the cops came by and asked if he knew about some guy in the neighborhood making illegal spirits, he quickly tossed it and never distilled again.
I grew up Catholic, but my family wasn’t always Catholic, in only goes back a few generations. How my family became Catholic is another beer related story. My Great Grandfather was painting down by Catholic University during the 20′s. Well, some friars down that way were brewing their own beer and the only way they would let him have any, is if he became Catholic. Being a beer lover and not able to legally buy beer anywhere thanks to prohibition, he agreed and was later baptized.
So it’s in the blood. When I first started out, I was talking to someone from the TTB. They asked me why I wanted to start a brewery, I half jokingly said, “I want to be the first person in my family to do it legally.”