Home Brewed Trouble

Copyright 2001 W. Bruce Cameron http://www.wbrucecameron.com/

Believing that maybe it would help my relationship with my 12 year old son if we had a common hobby, I bought him a beer-making kit. My wife seemed to think that the situation called for female incredulity.

You got your son a BEER-making kit? she demands. Are you out of your mind?

Hey, you were the one who said we needed to do more things together, I point out.

So you picked drinking beer, she scoffs.

Of course not. Hell only make it. ILL be the one drinking it, I respond. I hold my hands up in a representation of harmonious balance in the universe.

She fixes me with a scorching look that I recognize from early in our marriage, when I tried to train her to bring me snacks during football games, but I will not be deterred. Its very scientific, I declare. Fermentation. Carbonation.


My son is even less enthusiastic. It smells bad; you DRINK this stuff? he sniffs, stirring the batch of malt and hops.

Yes, but not until there is alcohol in it, I explain with fatherly wisdom.

Alcohol is a by-product of fermentation, he quotes, looking through the little handbook. He squints at me. Youll be drinking yeast pee.

Real men dont read directions, I advise.

When were finished, my home brew sits tightly sealed in a plastic keg. This is the pressure valve, I lecture my son. The yeast builds up carbon dioxide, which escapes out the valve; otherwise there would be an explosion that would level houses in a four-block area.

Im hoping this will excite him, but hes been reading the manual again. Carbon dioxide is another waste by-product, he intones.


In other words, yeast farts.

For three days, the mixture sits implacably inside the plastic vessel, as exciting as a bucket of paint. Concerned, I sneak in a little more sugar to get the yeast motivated. Youre not supposed to do that, Dad, my son warns.

The next day, the yeast have suddenly sprung to life, bubbling and hissing as they busily produce waste products. Impatient, I pull on the little tap, pouring an ounce of muddy liquid into a glass and taking a sip.

Does it taste like beer? my son asks anxiously.

Maybe beer thats already been through somebody, I respond ruefully.

That night my son prods me awake. Dad, the beer is calling you.

My wife gives me a frown, as this is exactly the excuse I give her whenever I meet my buddies at the sports bar. What do you mean? I ask him.

He shrugs. You sort of need to come hear it. Its making noises.

My wife puts her hand on my arm. Could it be dangerous? she inquires anxiously.

I laugh. Of course not. How could beer be dangerous? Beer Is Our Friend. I follow my son out into the kitchen and, at his urging, put my ear to the plastic keg. Hes right: There is some sort of creaking noise emitting from the seams around the edge of the thing. Through the thick, dark plastic, I can see that the yeast has rioted, filling the vessel with foam.

Maybe you put in too much sugar, he worries. Should I start calling people in a four-block area?

Nonsense. More sugar just means a higher alcohol content. How could that be bad? But his question has drawn my attention to the filter, which should be allowing yeast farts to escape. Instead, it looks locked in place, a little button that should be bobbing up and down. I reach out a finger.

Dad… my son starts to say.

The moment I pry at the valve it fires straight up like a bullet, the little button gone in an instant. The entire contents of the keg follow half a second later, a thick spray of foam coating everything in the kitchen. I dont even have time to blink and it is over, except that a steady rain of gooey sludge comes down on my head from the ceiling.

Tilting my jaw, Im able to catch a few drops in my mouth. My wife bursts into the kitchen and stares at me, shocked.

Not bad, I tell her, licking my lips.

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Copyright W. Bruce Cameron 2001
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