Thursday, August 22, 2013

Charley Brewer - In the Making

I'm doing a daily clean-up on our house, wondering what a man would want for his 40th birthday. A man that has every electronic gizmo he could want, and for whom a Porsche Carrera isn't a financial feasibility. What he needs is a hobby. Something to do that fulfills that need to create—something to be energized about. This is dangerous territory for a wife, she must ensure that this hobby gift is free of any perceived strings. For example, a new power tool might suggest she expects he use it to rebuild our ailing fence, instead of the totem pole he's always wanted to see if he could create...  A gift certificate is too vague and might end up being used for something practical... I make my way in from our front room to our kitchen and start cleaning up there. I clear off one counter and wipe it down, then fish out a paper bag to load up a collection of beer bottles... Eureka!

Thrilled, yet totally in ignorant about home brewing apparatus, I started at Main Brew's website, (a store I noticed off of highway 26) and checked out their starter kits. I settled on one and stole some time to go out and look. I parked the pickup and pushed through the door framed by two hops vines climbing ropes—looks like I'm in the right spot. Although the building is huge, the store is remarkably cramped with product crammed in every nook. On the right, next to a metal setup that looks like a 14th century alchemist's setup, is a rack of books; ah yes, I know books, a good place to start. I pull a book about cider, and explore the store. I can't find anything that remotely resembles what I saw online.  I wander past large glass and plastic jugs, wine making kits, empty bottles, caps and tools of unfathomable purpose. Then past sweet smelling grains and big barrels with what looks like molasses oozing from the spigot. I slide past the barrels into what looks like a storage area, and a guy on the phone leans in and asks if I'm looking for something. "Did I wander into no-man's-land?" He nods and grins... I wind my way back to the front counter, clearly I'm not in a supermarket. I wait in line to ask help from a guy who looks like he rolled out of bed at the crack of noon and fell into some clothes.

When it was my turn, I explained that I wanted to get my husband a starter kit for brewing cider and that I'd like to add whatever he needed to also brew beer, so he'd have something play with until the Columbia Gorge apples came into season. He lit up. Here is a man who loves his job. He explained the details and options without drowning me in lingo. He swung around the counter and started pulling parts for the kits. He briefly showed me around the store and told me to show Charley the starter videos on their website and also invited him to come in for a store tour and help brewing his first batch. He explained that they like to walk new customers through their first brew before turning them loose.  Based on my experience, I felt this was an excellent idea. Grateful, I thanked him, paid for the kits, and headed home.

 On the day of his birthday, I was nervous.  He had been talking about brewing cider a lot lately and also talked quite a bit about co-workers that home brew, but still...  The girls and I brought out his cake, sang the birthday song, complete with the, "You look like a Monkey—aaand you smell like one too!" verse. Then he opened the two wrapped gifts, the cider book and the beer brewing book that came with the kit. He seemed pleased. The girls and I hauled the apparatus from the closet piece by piece. He poked through the stuff and from then on spent every spare moment he could find, reading the books, watching the videos and counting the hours until he could go in and get his first batch of ingredients. Tucked in a birthday card from his parents was a check—perfect! Off he headed to Main Brew to return light footed and laden with goods, and a recipe for Bitter.


  1. Kudos, Amy, on searching out what sounds like the perfect gift. I think I'll ask for advice next time Nyel's birthday comes up. I am ALWAYS at a total loss...

  2. Haha! I'm usually at a loss too. I got lucky this year. It's fun when that happens.