Seniors create their own brews
Alex Pan ’11 likes beer. A lot. He and housemate Peter Kirk ’11 started brewing beer in the fall of their junior year here on the Hill. After watching a few of their senior friends make their own forays into the brewing process, Pan and Kirk went out and bought their own home-brewing kit.
“I initially started doing it to save money,” Pan said. “It’s cheaper to brew your own nice beer than buy nice beer.” Pan soon found than his own creations had raised his standards for all beers. “[Brewing my own beer] made me want to buy nicer beer all the time…but I still don’t consider myself above a Colt 45 every now and then.”
Home-brewing equipment requires an investment that has the potential to pay off in the long run. “[We] have a big boil pot, two different fermentation buckets, tubing, siphons, sanitation stuff and a bottling device,” Pan said. “Economically it’s pretty worth it: you end up making about fifty beers for about forty dollars worth of equipment. And its pretty good beer, hopefully.”
Pan and Kirk have experienced ups and downs in their own brewing endeavors. “Our first creation actually failed miserably, Pan said. “We put the yeast in while it was still cold so it died and never fermented.”
The next attempt was extremely successful. The duo called their creation Captain Hook Stout, a name that supports the larger theme of their hypothetical brewery, which combines the two creators’ names: Peter Pan Brews. “We had the idea of naming all of our beers after characters from Peter Pan,” Pan said.” He cited the Captain Hook Stout as the pair’s best beer to date, and lamented that it didn’t last long.
The collaborators’ next creation was a blueberry-pomegranate wheat ale that was reminiscent of Blue Moon or Shock Top. “The problem was [that] it was almost too drinkable… people would just down it.” The beer vanished before the pair found a suitable name for it.
Pan and Kirk’s latest creation is an intense beer that deviates from the Peter Pan theme. “We call it The Mahogany Bookshelf,” Pan said. He explained the name by saying that “Kirk took his first sip, he paused, looked around and said it tasted just like a mahogany bookshelf.”
The friends overcame a steep learning curve when pursuing their brewing endeavors. After trying to recycle bottles of beer they consume with their friends and housemates, Pan and Kirk quickly learned that not all bottles are meant to be refilled. “We had a lot of explosions at first,” Pan said with a laugh. “There was beer everywhere. And not in a good way.”
Pan and Kirk’s off-campus house conveniently contains two kitchens, one of which they use specifically for brewing. “We tend not to clean it after brewing, so the house smells like beer for about a week after we work on it, ” Pan said. Their friends and housemates are so excited about tasting the new creations that they don’t complain too much about the downsides of the brewing process.
Beer in progress requires consistent temperatures and a good deal of attention. “When you brew you boil everything then add the yeast in at the end,” Pan said. “After the first experience with the yeast going bad, I’m really nervous about it, and I’ve been known to wake up in the middle of the night to check on it. My friends joke that I’ll be a good father because of how many times I wake up to check in on my beer.” Whether or not this indicator of fatherly worth will prove true remains to be seen.
While Pan’s brewing is just for fun, he hopes to continue to pursue the hobby in the future. “I think my ultimate career plan is make some money…and then retire and open a brew pub,” he said. He and Kirk are currently conceptualizing a new creation that will be called BANG, but they’re choosing to keep the details under wraps. “I’d consider my life successful if I could make a beer [that were] as solid as PBR,” Pan said in conclusion. “Pan Blue Ribbon, maybe?”