I was dining out with my wife recently when she happened upon 21st Amendment Brewery’s seasonal, psychotherapist Come Hell or High Watermelon (cans or draft). Come Hell or High Watermelon is an American Wheat beer flavored, cystitis as you would expect, with watermelon. I gave it a try, and though fruity wheat beers are not really my preferred style (at all), I could easily tell it was a crisp, good quality, and nicely balanced beer. My wife’s reaction fell closer to the religious epiphany end of the spectrum. After consuming more than one can she says, “I love this! Figure out how to make a watermelon beer.”
At this point it occurred to me that I was about to experience a dilemma that most homebrewers deal with from time to time: keeping the spouse happy. To ensure things stay positive and I can continue to fill the garage with absolutely necessary brewing equipment, it is necessary to brew a beer she will enjoy from time to time. This has historically been a small price to pay and has actually done me good by forcing me to expand my brewing experiences into different styles. However, this watermelon beer has become my own personal homebrewing perfect storm.
- Taste (specifically mine). I do not like wheat beers…at all. I know enough to tell the difference between a good and bad wheat beer, but it is just not my thing. I am also not a big fan of fruit beers, but I can tolerate most for recreational purposes. My wife will not drink five gallons of anything and because wasting beer is a sin, I will have to find creative ways to distribute the batch. One of the tried and true methods of disposing of excess homebrew is to share it at barbeques and parties. Unfortunately, taking a watermelon wheat beer to a barbecue would be the homebrew equivalent of taking a DVD of “Steel Magnolias” to a bachelor party. I am not ready for that kind of social awkwardness.
- Logistics. A smaller batch is not possible without additional equipment. This may sound counter-intuitive as well as a great argument to buy more stuff, but it has taken a great deal of effort to engineer my brewing activities to be solely five-gallon and keg-based. Bottles are not an option. They take too much space, are a pain to clean and sterilize, and I have my pride. In addition, I have a finite amount of refrigerated space and based on the issues outlined in problem #1, this beer will most likely be a long-term resident. At the end of the day I am going to have a lot of beer I’m not a fan of taking up valuable space and equipment.
- Fear. I might mess this up. This is not going to be an easy beer to make. So far I have never brewed a batch of beer that went so “bad” that it was undrinkable. I have brewed beer that did not end up like I expected, but it was still a good, enjoyable beer. I once tried to brew a Christmas Ale (essentially the same as our Pirate’s Ale), which ended up being a great porter, just not very Christmassy. This watermelon wheat is dangerous. Based on the research I’ve done so far, it will probably have to be an all-grain batch, relatively low bitterness, and the watermelon will need to be added in either the primary or secondary fermentation. Contamination is going to be a big concern and the use of watermelon can still be considered “experimental.” Plus, if this thing ends up going south, I lose some serious street cred. “What finally did Andy in? A watermelon wheat? We shall never speak of him again.”
A dilemma, by definition, implies that there is no safe direction to go and I think that is the situation I’m in. Another way to look at this is a challenge, a way for me to mature as a small batch brewer. Maybe I should take an eastern philosophy mentality and look how this experience will craft my inner brewing soul. Regardless of how I accept my circumstances, I think I’m going to have to embrace this storm, hope fate will show me the path and trust that the brew that does not kill me only makes me stronger.
Suggestions, recommendations, and/or condolences are absolutely welcome!