A homebrewer’s journal, by John Kleinchester
It’s been a bit difficult for me to find time for homebrewing lately. My day job has changed and well, yeah, I’m really just making excuses. I can find time. I just haven’t much lately. Thankfully, my good friend and homebrewing partner Jeff has never lost his brew-footing. He’s consistently churning out world-class beer. We often brew together, but it’s not always easy to find time to make that happen either. When he announced not too long ago that he was getting married, it was never even a question whether or not there would be homebrew served at the reception.
Brewing beer for events is always a different beast than regular brewing. Sure, any batch could get infected and end up a drain pour. We’ve brewed for competitions before and even a few other weddings. But obviously when it’s your own wedding it’s an added level of worry and scrutiny that goes into every last drop. You can imagine why. Here are our tips for homebrewing for a wedding.
The first thing we decided was that to play it safe, we’d brew four different styles of beer in hopes that at the very least two of them would be adequate enough to serve to one-hundred-plus people. If you have the time and start far enough in advance, this is the way to do it. Best case scenario, you have four batches of great beer that you can pick from. If luck is on your side.
Jeff’s brewing setup is at his apartment in Brooklyn and mine is in Jersey City. His wedding took place in Jersey so we realized that instead of brewing in Brooklyn and having to find a way to transport it all, we’d be better off brewing at his dad’s place, which is only a few miles from the venue. Thankfully Jeff’s dad didn’t mind the temporary mess and we were able to get it done. On top of that, he was happy to have us add our spent grains directly to his mulch pile! This is an added benefit you can’t really get in apartment-dwelling city brewing.
Have Other Options
In the end we ended up with three quality five-gallon batches: a Smoked Porter, a Belgian Wheat Beer with fresh lemons added as well as a New Zealand Hopped Lager. Granted, not everyone is into those styles, so Jeff decided to pick up some commercial beer to have on hand as an alternative in case anyone was not comfortable drinking homemade beer, even though everyone should be!
Once the event starts, take a page out of Charlie Papazian’s book and “relax, don’t worry.” If it’s your wedding, you’ve got about a thousand other things to deal with besides whether the beer is pouring foamy or any myriad of other issues that can come up when serving homebrew. Let your friends handle it. This is exactly what happened to us. As expected, there were some foaming issues with the three corny kegs the bartenders were pouring from, but we kept Jeff away and handled the issues ourselves. All in all, the homebrew was a resounding success and more people drank that then the commercial beer!