Post-Solera

Time cures all may – nay, is a misnomer.

My last post – which was in October – was about this very subject. I was hot to trot. Four of the containers were spot-on for making a killer blended sour beer. When I finally carved time to peel the lids open again just last week… utterly inane drivel. Let me start with where my head was. I set up an action packed brew day where we’d knock out a handful of critical projects – bottle 8 gallons, fruit/spice 8 gallons, brew off 8 gallons of IPA with a focus on bottling the first pull of soleras I had fallen for in October.

Turns out, it was their swan song.

Let’s start with the look. Spread across the lids was mouse poop and spots of hardened pee/yeast/wort. I can’t blame my father-in-law Gary, the guy’s got mice and went through at least 15 of them before the traps stopped springing. My beer just had to sleep there, Gary had to live in it. A bag of peanuts was broken into less than 12 hours after he bought them, and they were inside his cupboard. With that said I inserted the wine thief/turkey baster like a surgeon. I didn’t even want to graze the edge of the lids. My brew buddy, Travis had a sinking horrified look on his face after I pulled them. He would never not think about the little pills of faeces when drinking this beer. I’d have an uphill battle myself. Some were super clear and some were murky, but they were all a lovely gold. I had that going for me.

The smell and taste? Flat. Like a radio hit you’re tired of hearing. No depth, on the verge of wallpaper, it was as if we were lapping at the feet of ghosts. Uninspired husks of what could have been. I hesitated and tried them again. Travis was nervous and without words. I tried my damnedest to get my brew-partner to speak up about his love of one of the samples or that somehow they could be rescued, but lost as I was – likely drowned in the fear of getting E. coli or some rat-butt thing that makes the evening news.

Then came the guilt. After the decision, then he wanted to save it, age it, resuscitate, anything. Nope, I was set, and we spent the better part of the day dumping and cleaning six buckets – thirty gallons of this stuff. The basement smelled like the death of a bar floor. A couple of the soleras were so oxidized they were simply vinegar and brought a sharp note of over-ripeness to it all.

Am I sad that it didn’t work out? Of course. There was always that risk, but I wanted to give it a go. Would I do it again? Very unlikely. I’d be willing to age 10 gallons maybe in a more robust fermentor than buckets, as well as age them in my basement where I could taste it much more often and bottle it without hesitation. Ever onward, learn from what I did wrong – age in plastic, rodent control, didn’t bottle at peak, left unattended, arrogance – and keep moving.

Time is a vice anymore – squeezing me thin. When I worked from home only three days a week, time wasn’t a weight but a free-flowing currency. My time wasn’t worth as much. Not so anymore.

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