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A day in the life of an Indy brewer

Making beer is a blend of science and creativity


Luksha hard at work. - CAVAN MCGINSIE
  • Cavan McGinsie
  • Luksha hard at work.
It's a rarity for me to walk into a situation and feel completely and utterly lost. I have a decent knowledge base and anywhere, from sports, to cooking, to writing, to playing an instrument or even wiring a house I can figure it out quite quickly. But here I am, sitting at home, drinking a beer, thinking back over today and I barely have an inkling of what it takes to be a brewer.

I just finished a 9-to-5 shift at Metazoa Brewing Company. I didn't really know what to expect, I've spoken with plenty of brewers, been on brewery tours, and drank probably too much of the finished product, but I didn't understand how it all happened. When I walked in, head brewer Aaron Koerner was already busy prepping for the day. Soon after I walked in, the two assistant brewers, Zack Holzknecht and Tori Luksha made their way in.

You can't tell me it doesn't look like a lightsaber. - COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA
  • Courtesy of Wikimedia
  • You can't tell me it doesn't look like a lightsaber.

Throughout the day I spent some time stirring the gigantic vat of mash (it's more tiring than it looks), running grains through the mill (both on their industrial sized and also with a drill on their modified hand-crank mill), adding early and late-addition hops, attaching tri-clamps, weighing out grains for recipes and using instruments to test for gravity (a refractometer [looks like a lightsaber] and a hydrometer). But, the activity that seems to be the most prevalent, you may be happy to hear, is cleaning. Between each step of the brewing process (which take between an hour all the way to 8 days), the brewers are sanitizing, disinfecting, acid-washing, every surface of the place. What's the old saying, cleanliness is next to godliness?

Freshly stirred mash - CAVAN MCGINSIE
  • Cavan McGinsie
  • Freshly stirred mash

From chatting with the brewers, I found that they all have scientific thought processes and interests, but those are blended with a need to creatively express themselves. I, on the other hand, don't have a knack for the scientific aspects of the process. To me, watching them use the hydrometers and using chemicals to balance out the pH in the water and explaining how the yeast eats off all of the sugars was like being back in high school chemistry (my lowest grade in my entire academic career). I felt lost, and yet, more so, I was amazed by their knowledge and abilities, and just how much goes into getting me tipsy.

So, what did a day in the life of a brewer do for me? It made me appreciate every single sip just that much more. The mindset of blending these three different grains with these two hops and dropping them in at this time instead of that time, it takes a mind that is creatively scientific, and also a refined palate that catches the nuances and subtleties of flavor. So, next time you're drinking your favorite local beer, be thankful for all of the hard work and knowledge that went into that single drink.


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