by Jay Eichberger

the ancient
practice focused
on changing base
ingridents into
liquid  gold also
know as
Captains log 051210:

As I log my maiden voyage on my mind searches for just the right topic. As I
awoke this morning it hit me… Eureka! As someone who has been given the opportunity to share
their humble opinion and love for beer I’ll need to introduce myself and explain just how I made it
here today. The following is my story. As I was saying before, the perfect idea hit me this morning
while I lay in bed searching for the perfect premise for an article. Several nights ago while watching
one of my favorite channels, the Science channel, the topic was time. The host was a physicist who
asked the simple question, “What time is it?” Simple right… Well there’s more to this question than
you may think. Right now it’s 9:12 am… and it’s time for a sip of liquid inspiration. The host began
to explain how time and space are inevitably linked. The human mind perceives space in three
dimensions (length, width and height), however time gives us a benchmark for when events happen.
Thus time adds a fourth dimension to how we perceive events. Not only do we begin to understand
where something occurred, but also when something occurred. Man perceives time as the length of
measured time, minutes, hours, days and years since a significant event, such as your own birth, or
the beginning of the western calendar i.e. year 1 C.E. So time is relative to events that each person
perceives as significant to their own life. Personally craft beer is a significant part of my life. This
article ties in my personal journey through my introduction to great beer from beginning to this very
moment. This is the beer space continuum.

My story begins at the age of 19. While I had experimented with the likes of brews such as
Yuengling and the more “abundant” macro pisseries… I mean “breweries”; it took me 19 years of
trial and error before I came across true craft ale. It was a cool summer night in the city of Reading,
Pennsylvania. I had heard about a “quirky little corner bar” that served great beer. Upon entering
the fabled Northeast Taproom my initial thought was that this place was different. Looking around,
one noticed the glow of a well- stocked beer fridge full of rare beers I had never seen or heard of
before. Being underage I knew I had to keep my cool, so I walked up to the bar looked up at the
blackboard and ordered the local brew, a Fancy Pants mudskipper porter.  The initial sip sent
shock waves to my brain. I had never tasted anything likes this before. A rich roast chocolate malt
flavor with a velvety consistency. By geebs this sure beats the pants off of Yuengling Porter! My
first and second pint were an epiphany… This was too good to be true. What rich, bold and
complex flavors. Back up to the bar for round three, hmmm, lets me try an…. Alpha King (Three
Floyds – Munster, IN). Again, I began to think that maybe I had transported to some distant
dimension where beer was delicious! I began to look around and noticed a mix of bearded men, a
sprinkle of 20 something women and a few artsy cats scattered around the room. Yes, this place
was different. A few trips and some number of pints later I befriended the owner of this fine
establishment, Pete. Being extremely hospitable, he introduced me to the regulars. A friend of my
parents owned a bar, and I had been to his establishment dozens of times as an adolescent to play
pool or darts, but his establishment was nothing like this. This bar offered something I couldn’t put
my finger on. Was it the variety of new and exciting craft brews, or the intellectual people, the artists
or the walls filled with action figures, brewery paraphernalia, the works of local artists or the chance
to enjoy a pint while listening to free local musicians do what they do? I tend to think the whole was
greater than the sum of the parts. This was where I came, this was where I drank, learned, and
above all listed to those who really knew their brew.

My next stop along the inevitable passage of time would be the Old Speckled Hen English ale
house. This beautiful 17th century wood cabin was the oldest building in the city of Reading. I took
much pride in bar tending here. Perks of the job included a nearly unlimited access to a handful of
craft beers on tap. I became known amongst my fellow workers as “wild dude”, one of the many
nicknames bestowed upon me, but that’s another story. I began to experiment with the possibilities
of tapping black and tan beers, only I didn’t use a spoon. If you’re a good bar tender and you
know your beers you don’t need one. Of the eight beers we offered one line was always dedicated
to a stout and one line was dedicated to Old Speckled Hen. During one of the more eventful nights
tending I began mixing Weyerbacher’s Heresy with Old Speckled Hen. Four pints later I began to
feel a little less initiated than usual. I soon discovered that Heresy weighed in at a whopping 8.2%.
Lesson learned: never underestimate the power of a craft brew.

On my last day of bar tending one of the regulars and somewhat of a local legend “Bob the Beer
Guy” stopped in and gave me one of the most meaningful books I’ve had the good fortune to
receive, “The complete joy of homebrewing, 3rd edition, by Charles Papazian (President of the
American Homebrewers Association). This book changed the way I perceived beer and began my
journey into the wonderful world of homebrewing. Armed with the knowledgeable Bob the beer
guy, new found insight on the inner workings of real beer and a vision, Bob took me under his wing
and helped me find the ingredients for my first batch of brew. Bob recommended a kit for my first
brew, but I felt that a truly great beer had to be unique. Being a former brewer for Stone Brewery,
Bob knew his stuff. He could sense that I wasn’t satisfied with following a kit beer. I told him that I
wanted to bring this beer to life in my own way. With a smile on his face Bob and I selected a
pound of specialty grain and an ounce or two more of pellet hops. Now were talking. My first beer
received rave review to my extreme delight. At this point I was hooked on craft beers and the
possibilities of brewing, there was NO turning back.

A few years of college and a dozen or so batches of homebrew later it was time to turn a new leaf.
After graduating, I moved to New Jersey in order to accept a job offer. Finding myself with a few
extra dollars in my pockets, I decided to purchase a draft beer refrigeration unit, a.k.a. kegerator.
What an ingenious device! Man must have been dreaming about a similar device for centuries.
Thanks to simple engineering and the modern ability to manipulate materials, technology has
provided man with draft beer at the pull of a lever. I pledged to myself that as long as I own this
unit, I would only tap craft beer and never pollute my beer line with mass-produced gobbledygook.

One of the lessons I learned early on is that great beer attracts great people. Several months after
moving to New Jersey I met Kathy. After dinner on our first date I offered her a bottle of my
homebrew. To her credit she trusted me enough to accept (wise choice, but I jest). She sampled
my ESB, pale ale and IPA. After sharing several bottles she decided to spend the night. From that
day forward we became inseparable. Three and half years later we live together and Kathy is now
my fiancé. Beer truly does open doors for people; in my case I met my future wife over dinner and
a few bottles of homebrew. Whither she actually enjoyed the fruits of my labor or she was trying to
be polite (I prefer the former) we have formed a truly special relationship. From that day forward I
begin to realize the unbridled potential of this delicious elixir.

The power of thirst has brought me many places. As I learned early on great beer has the ability to
bring great personalities and great minds together. What is it about this beverage that has influenced
man since its inception? Technically speaking beer consists of four ingredients: water, yeast, malted
barley and hops. Sure, many other ingredients have been added to the original recipe(s), but these
four ingredients are essential to the creation of brew. Brewing a basic beer is simple, nearly anyone
can brew, but brewing great beer is an art. The quality of each ingredient, the care and techniques
one uses in brewing are similar to the colors an artist uses to paint a picture. If your skill is weak
your beer could be compared to a mediocre work, but if your truly talented, poses the intelligence
and tenacity of a great artist you have the ability to produce a true masterpiece. It may not always
turn out truly great but once and a while and possibly by accident magic happens.

      Stay tuned for more Ale-chemy by Jay Eichberger next month!