About 10 years ago when I was still in college, I attended a Saturday afternoon party at a friend’s house in Oakland featuring a game of vicious urban croquet. At this party, one of my friend’s roommates passed out unlabeled brown bottles of beer, urging us to try it but not waste it as he only had enough for one bottle per person. Up to this point, Henry Weinhard’s and the occasional Guinness were my two favorite beers. Always willing to try something new, I flipped open the cap and took a swig. It was MAGNIFICENT! The taste was very sweet, almost like a soda, but with a distinct grainy and hoppy background that assured me it was still a beer. I sought out the generous roommate to ask him what the brew was and where I could buy it.
“It’s called Goat Scrotum Ale,” he told me with an impish giggle.
After being reassured that the name was only fanciful and the brew did not, indeed, contain any farm animal genitalia, I asked him where he bought it and why he took the labels off.
“It never had any labels. You can’t buy this beer anywhere – I made it.”
Before this moment I had never really considered that one could make his own beer. I had heard of folks making their own beer and wine in the past, sure, but I also heard tales of exploding bottles, sour tastes and general disarray in the process. That something this amazing could be produced at home by a stoner college student amazed me.
Thus started my long (and I mean looooong) descent into the world of homebrewing. As I do with all new ideas, I ventured to the bookstore to read up on the process. I even bought a kit from the Barnes and Noble bookstore (where else would you buy a beer kit?) that came with a can of pre-hopped pale malt extract, a small packet of yeast and a book with recipes and instructions. I learned, however, that I would also need a fermentor, bottles, a capper, sanitizer, tubing and on and on… this would be a daunting project. So I shelved it.
Almost 10 years would pass before I finally brewed my first beer. During that time I revisited the idea again and again, but never took the plunge. It took a massive life change that sparked a desire to stop waffling and start doing all those things I’ve always wanted to do, plus the fortuitous winning of a raffle prize for one free brewing lesson, to finally get me to boil up my first wort.
I now have several beers under my belt. This past weekend, during a brew-in for the Delta Brewing club, I decided to re-live that first experience that changed the way I looked at beer forever. I never had the chance to speak with the brewer at that party again so I never got the recipe for what I assumed was his own creation. When I found a recipe with the same name and containing ingredients that would lend the same flavor as what I had on that day in Charles Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, I knew I had to brew it up. You should have seen the looks on my fellow homebrewers faces as I added all of the wild ingredients to my boil – chocolate, licorice root, juniper berries, freshly grated ginger… Mmmmm…
It may take a full month before I’m able to completely enjoy my tribute to the joy of homebrewing, but it will be well worth the wait. The recipe that follows is a slight variation on Papazian’s recipe taking into account both availability of ingrediants and some of my own homebrewing experience.
Goat Scrotum Ale (A variation)
5lbs liquid dark malt extract
1lb. 120L crystal malt
1/4lb. black patent malt
1/4lb. roasted barley
1 1/2oz. Northern Brewer hops (60 min)
1/4 oz. Kent Goldings hops (2 min)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup dark molasses
2 tsp. gypsum
1 lb. honey
4oz. freshly grated ginger
1oz. licorice root
1/4 cup slightly crushed juniper berries
6oz. Hershey’s baking chocolate
1 Whirlfloc tablet
1 vial White Labs WLP002 English Ale Yeast, increased to about 2 quarts using a starter.
O.G. About 1065
F.G. Not sure yet
Steep the grains at 150-170 deg. for half an hour. Pull out the grains, then bring the water to a boil. Add the Northern Brewer hops and gypsum and start the timer for an hour. At the half hour mark, add the brown sugar, molasses, licorice root, juniper berries and chocolate. With 20 minutes left in the boil, add the Whirlfloc tablet. Just before flameout, add both the Kent Goldings hops and the honey. Cool the wort, place in the fermentor, oxygenate and pitch the yeast. I’ll be letting my wort sit on the yeast cake for about two weeks before bottling to ensure a complete fermentation.