Brewing between bottles and diapers: The humorous, definitive guide to brewing with infants
You may think that brewing a beer, much like a full night’s sleep or going out for a nice moderately priced seven course dinner just isn’t possible with an infant, let alone twins. I’m here to tell you, much like you may hear at a presidential debate, you’re WRONG! It’s possible, but like two porcupines making love, not exactly easy, any you need to take it slow. But we’re in this together, so here’s the definitive guide to brewing in between bottles.
Start early with prep. I’d tell you to do this early, but let’s face it, if you have an infant, you do everything early. Since the sun probably isn’t up yet and you’ve already done two feedings, a diaper change, changed them into their clothes for the day, changed it because in the light you realized they had black pants with a blue shirt and socks, then changed it again after they spewed formula all the way down their shirt and somehow onto their socks, but oddly not their pants, it’s time to prep. No wait, now you need to change your pants because you just noticed — a hour after feeding — that they somehow got formula all over the back of your pants — wait weren’t you sitting down?
Ok time to prep. Let your child enjoy some time on their play mat while you pull out and begin cleaning your supplies. Start rinsing while you sing along to Skip to the Loo for the 1600th time. If you’re lucky, you can start sanitizing before your child gets irrationally mad at the toucan hanging from their mat for not talking back to them. If you aren’t, this will happen the second you mix the sanitizing solution. Make sure to sanitize everything. If you have teething infants, just about everything in the house has probably been in their mouths, so you want everything to be super clean. While infant saliva can enhance a sour beer, you probably want to keep it and the bacteria away from your ale or lager.
Begin the brew. Once you’ve calmed your spawn back down by singing twelve verses of Old MacDonald, all with the same animal noise — sheep, goat, lamb, ewe, etc — it’s time to begin your brew. First, you need to steep any specialty grains you have. Bring the water up to a high heat, but below a boil or you will leach tannins into the beer and it will taste like the water from your middle school’s water fountain. You can either use a nylon bag for the grains or one of the socks whose partner inexplicably disappeared in the middle of the night off of your child’s foot. Sure, there is absolutely no place it could be hiding in their crib or room, but just accept that it is gone and never coming back. That is, until you use the remaining one for your brew. Then you’ll find the other 15 minutes later, guaranteed. It was somehow rolled into the inside of their onesie, and not the one they were wearing the night it disappeared. Houdini!
Steep. While this steeps like a fine cup of tea, remember how you haven’t had a warm cup of tea or coffee in four months. You can consider making one, but it is wise not to tempt fate, for if you do, baby is most assuredly going to wake up again. Oh no wait, even the thought of making coffee has somehow woken them up, so it’s time to calm them back down again. Try each of the 42 top choice toys recommended by online blogs you bought for $48.99 each from some organic artisan wooden children’s toy shop based out of Oregon. None will work, but the exercise is good for you as is the creativity you will instill in your child as they learn from each of the different voices you try. Then occupy them for hours with either a paper towel roll or something shiny from the mantle place. For us the set of frog bookends we have works best.
Bubble Bubble Boil and oh God what is that smell? You either forgot about a carton of takeout indian food from last month behind the couch or your child is not reacting well to the iron supplements your pediatrician thinks you maybe possibly need. Ah who knows, but it doesn’t hurt to take it. Until you read on the bottle that overdosing can be fatal. Fun! Anyway, change the diaper or risk food poisoning by taste testing the indian food you found — hey in this house it’s a possibility and Indian food keeps for a surprising time. Now you begin the true artistry of the brewer, the boil. Over the next hour, you need to add in the malt, any spices the recipe calls for, and the bittering, and aroma hops in that order. Also throw in the remaining ingredients you somehow ended up with, these are the so-called mystery ingredients. Like on Chopped, these can often be something fun and unexpected like zombie fingers for halloween or eel, it’s alway eel for some reason. Setting a timer for each time in the brew you need to add an ingredient is not only helpful to keep on track, but makes the diaper changes and feedings you have to do in the allotted time all the more fun and challenging, like defusing a bomb. For bonus points, try changing a diaper with only a paperclip and mechanical pencil like MacGyver.
An important thing to keep in mind is the difference between “bittering” hops and “aroma” hops. Bittering hops are those added fairly early during the boil to instill the hop “bite” that you experience in higher hop beers, measured by IBU (international bitterness units), like IPAs. Also high on the bitterness scale is that feeling you get when you remember that your parents repeatedly used whiskey to calm you down and you pledge to use only “natural” techniques like singing and making animal sounds repeatedly which never work because whiskey is “irresponsible” and “potentially habit forming” and “abusive to children”. Aroma hops are added late in the boil to pull out more aroma and some flavors like citrus, grapefruit, resin, or toe cheese, depending on if you use citra, olympus, violin, or oyster hops. You can also try Czech hops to distill a desire to play professional hockey into your late 40s or Cascade hops from the Pacific Northwest if you want your beer to stop shaving and using deodorant and begin hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
Quickly cool the beer, or wort. Like my podiatrist, you want to quickly freeze off the wart. Wort is the unfermented beer mixture you now have. From the boiling temperature, you want to get it down to a temperature favorable for the yeast to ferment as fast as possible to limit the amount of time for bacteria and foreign debris to enter it as this can infect the beer. Also probably cosmic rays. Cosmic Ray and the Foreign Debris is my David Bowie cover band. We only play Starman. Since “quickly” isn’t exactly in the vocabulary of parents with infants, you need to get creative. Best is a wort chiller which is a copper coil that like the internet is a series of tubes that you run cold water through to rapidly cool the beer. These are pricey though, so you can also try submerging the pot in ice. Or, do the only thing you can do while your child inevitably feels the desire to express themselves through the only avenue they understand, crying, and practice using the force through intently willing the beer to cool. Sadly, unlike Kevin Bacon and bees, they don’t know how to express themselves through dance yet.
While your child has a tantrum because you don’t fully appreciate how difficult it was for them to move their hand from their waist to the mouth, it isn’t exactly easy when you only discovered you had fingers three days ago, picture the beer cooling rapidly. This won’t do anything but at least it shifts your focus away from the migraine you now have from the screaming. There’s only one way to calm them down, Seuss, PHD.
Big A, little a, what begins with A? Daddy’s having an aneurysm from your screaming, a, a, a.
Big B, little b, what begins with B? Beer, baby, this was a terrible idea, b, b, b.
Big C, little c, what begins… oh you spewed again.
Ok time to change baby again while the wort cools. Oh and your pants are ok this time, but somehow formula got on the back of your elbow? How is that even possible? It’s like a magic bullet.
Sprinkle in the yeast. Once the wort has cooled to the proper temperature, too hot and the yeast will produce weird fruity or acidic flavors, too cold and it will go dormant and you won’t get alcohol, it’s time to sprinkle in our friend the yeast.
Mr. Yeast is oh so good. Mr. Yeast does what he should.
Mr. Yeast turns wort to beer. Mr. Yeast has no fear.
Mr. Yeast makes lager or ale. Mr. Yeast works without fail.
Mr. Yeast takes no vacation. Mr. Yeast farts carbonation.
Prepare for fermentation. Fermentation, it’s not just what happens to diapers when you forget to clean the diaper genie. It’s also the magical process in which yeast eats the sugar in the wort and farts out carbonation and poos out alcohol. Don’t you wish your kid’s butt produced something useful? This is the part where you move the wort to it’s home for the next two to four weeks. I like to listen to Wham!’s Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go while doing this. Not because it is in any way related to the process, but just because it’s a good song and not enough bands have exclamation marks in their name. Now, just like once your baby goes to bed, tiptoe out of the room and leave it in the darkness with a noise machine, a comfort object, and if the pacifier (air-lock bung) pops out, stick it back in quietly and try not to disturb it for weeks or until it wakes up in the middle of the night.
Move to Secondary. This is an optional step which according to the literature, will improve the flavor and clarity by moving from the primary fermentation vessel to a secondary. However, it also adds a week or two to the time until the beer is ready, and with the lack of sleep you are getting plus the stress from screaming, you are going to want to drink this beer as soon as possible. Actually, just drink it now. Or go out and get some beer from the store. You deserve it.
Bottle. After the beer is done resting — yes, now it is beer — it’s time to bottle it. It helps to have a helper for this, or to buy an automated bottling line. You could also lead a hostile takeover of a brewery with a bottling line after devaluing their stock by running a smear campaign about how they source genetically modified hops or something. Or if you’re near Brooklyn, get a canning line since hipsters only drink from cans. You’ll need to add some sugar to prime the beer, or reactivate the residual yeast to carbonate the bottles. Don’t add too much or bottles may fountain upon opening. This might sound like fun but when you are cleaning sticky beer off of your entire kitchen while baby screams because of the sound of an exploding bottle, you may think again. Don’t do too little either or you will have flat beer.
Drink! No steps needed. You deserve this. Enjoy it. And is that formula caked on behind your ear?