Day 325

As I have mentioned, when you work at a small brewery, you have to be able to change hats several times a day as circumstances dictate–brewing, maintenance, kegging, cleaning, answering the phone, selling beer to walk-in customers… and giving tours.

Tour groups can be as small as one or two customers–usually beer geeks–who have dropped in to buy beer and ask to see the brewhouse, or it can be a busload of people who have pre-booked a tour. Until today, I hadn’t actually given any tours at the brewery. However, the owner and the administrator were down at the Toronto Festival of Beer, and the brewmaster and assistant brewmaster were right in the middle of a brew, so it fell to me to give the tour. The group turned out to be a half-dozen very senior citizens accompanied by two young women.

Once everyone was seated in our tasting room, and had been provided with a sample of one of our beers, I introduced myself, gave a brief history of the brewery, then went into a short but humourous story of the development of beer vis a vis the cultivation of barley, a comparison of beer culture in northern Europe compared to wine culture in southern Europe, and a quick summary of beer at the dinner table from mediaeval times to the present. I then asked if there were any questions. It took me a moment to realize that blank incomprehesion was written on every face. One of the young women said, “Hold on a minute while I translate.” She started speaking in Italian. Ah, these were Italian-speaking very senior citizens. To my chagrin, the translator managed to condense everything I had said to that point into one sentence, the gist of which was: “This gentleman says good morning.”

I kept it short from that point on. My planned five-minute explanation of mashing and lautering became “We give the grain a hot bath and then rinse it.”

Explanation of the kettle boil, addition of hops, and bittering versus aroma hops: “We boil the water.”

The process of fermentation, the role of yeast, its dependence on a variety of co-factors and enzymes, and the development of green beer to mature beer: “We add yeast, which turns the water into beer.”

Filtration, carbonation and bottling: “We remove the yeast and put the beer in bottles.”

As the tour bus poulled out of the brewery parking lot, I reflected that the tour had been a lot shorter than I expected.

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