We may not be our own best critics. That becomes crystal-hops-pale-ale clear when Alex Macy pours the first tiny pintlet of our homebrewed beer and we tip the red-brown tonic toward our lips. Wow, that smell? Kazowwwww! We made this?!
It’s been 6 weeks and 10 days since we sterilized the fermenter and went to work creating what we believe to be the world’s first-ever Tonka Bean Porter. Powerful stuff, this hobby: Revisiting homebrew felt a little like winning back our independence. Remember, homebrew was verboten contraband until 1979 when Jimmy Carter courted the garage-bound beer-bellied caveman vote by legalizing the intoxicating art of brewing your own dumb stupor in glass and stainless steel contraptions sitting right next to your car, or bicycle, or cat litter.
Oh, but how easy it is to fall pray to loving the shit out of your own beer. It’s less like reviewing your own novel in a major magazine. And more like describing your precious first-grade child to a stranger sitting next to you on the flight home from a business trip. Our beer is better than your beer. Our beer is good in its heart. Our fucking beer is going to be president of the United States of America someday. What’s our beer like?!
(…fishing out a thick wad of baby pictures from our wallet.)
Sweet, sticky, paint-thinner-thin. But rich, round, warm and festive tasting. Raw sugarcane and cinnamon, something nutty, whole wheaty. A vision of raison bagels — freshly, boiled and baked — the ones with deep swirling smears of cinnamon running through their whole wheat flesh, but maybe closer to a raison bagel that’s been left sitting in a cereal bowl filled with vodka. Tongue goes fuzzy with the taste of almonds, marzipan-squirting candies, so potent they taste like what the first whiff of cyanide gas might be like. Arm cramp… It feels hotter in the belly than other beers, doesn’t it? It does right? The whole room feels a little hot now. Cotton mouth. Slightly pulsing brow. That’s the paranoia, not the beer.
It’s a new sensation for us to know what we’re tasting because we know how it was made: Brewed on a shaded front patio in Echo Park, with a couple old dogs looking on, hitting a rolling boil in a steel drum usually used for deep-frying turkeys — our tonka beer is a slight departure from a basic vanilla bean porter. We got our hands on more than a dozen tonka beans, shaved ’em, crushed ’em and sunk them in a tincture of vodka to bloom into a brown liquor. Two weeks into the fermenting process, we poured the tincture in. A month later, there’s the tonka. Is it strong enough? Can you really taste the tonka? We added a second tincture. Now, you can’t miss it. There is only tonka — no pain or death, sorry FDA, not like the factory tomatoes, shitty spinach, peanut butter, crappy eggs you can’t seem to keep clean. And it’s delicious.
But we’re biased and you don’t have to take our word for it.
Dairy Pairy: Tomme de Chevre
Soundtrack: Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer to God”
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