I was the very particular kind of tired, bordering on exhaustion, where I felt dizzy, disoriented, a little nauseous, and clumsy. It was like being drunk without any of the fun.
I stumbled from my bedroom to my kitchen in the predawn darkness, and somehow made myself a cup of coffee. I stood at the back patio door and watched the glow of the sunrise begin to touch the eastern sky, sipping my mug of wake-up-Wil-it’s-going-to-be-a-long-day juice.
I’m sure normal people get up before dawn every day. I’m sure normal people sleep less than five hours a night all the time. It turns out that I am not a normal person, and after less than ten hours of sleep over the previous 48 hours, as well as back-to-back 18 hour work days, I was a little sideways.
It would all be worth it, though. I was up so early because Anne and I were heading down to San Diego to make a special beer with my friends at Stone Brewing’s Liberty Station.
We drove to Union Station to catch our 6am train. We got there so early, the parking lots hadn’t even opened up yet. That seems like something Amtrak may want to look at.
Once we were in the station, we noticed that it has been vastly improved since we were last there, about a year ago. It’s clean, it’s well lit, and there were a number of good food options that had never been there before.
We found our train, boarded it, and I fell asleep before it even left the station. During the nearly three hour trip, I woke up a couple times when my head did that “fall down onto your chest and wake you up” thing, and when we got to San Diego around 9am, I was delirious and had a sore neck. Awesome.
Our friend Tyler, who works for Stone, picked us up and took us to Liberty Station, where I was introduced to Kris Ketcham, who is the head brewer there. Liberty Station is a little different from the main brewery in Escondido. It’s a smaller, 10 barrel system, and Kris can create and brew beers that are quite different from the things Stone is typically known for releasing. Later this month, we’re having a beer celebration at Liberty Station called Hop Con, and in addition to releasing w00tstout 2.0 there, we’re also releasing three special collaboration beers that Kris made with Rileah Vanderbilt, Bobak Ferdowsi, and me. I can’t say with Rileah and Bobak made, but I made a white sage IPA, inspired by Craftsman Brewing’s legendary Triple White Sage.
While Kris prepared some of the things we’d be using, I drank approximately sixty-one gallons of coffee, and ate a little breakfast. The caffeine, food energy, and overwhelming excitement I felt about brewing gave me access to an energy reserve that I didn’t know I had, and I didn’t feel even a little bit tired, once we started milling our grains.
When I’ve brewed at the Escondido brewhouse, it’s been really fun, and brewing on such a large scale is vastly different from what I do when I make beer at my house. I’m not as intimately involved, because I don’t need to be; computers and the equipment handle most of the work. But at Liberty Station, we worked on a 10 barrel system (that’s about 3500 bottles of beer if I did the math right) that was much more like epic level homebrewing.
Kris and I hauled something like sixteen 55 pound sacks of grain up some stairs and poured them into the mill so we could mash them. Then we collected all the various hops we’d be using, and weighed them out by hand. Finally, while we were mashing in (adding hot water and milled grains to the mash tun, where we turn water and grains into beer wort), I got to use a giant mash paddle to stir it all around. One of the things I love about brewing is how little the process has changed in hundreds of years, and I genuinely loved standing over a big kettle, stirring water and grains the same way a brewmaster would have in the eighteenth century. I was also grateful to not have to worry about that century’s infectious diseases.
Over the course of the day, I made beer with Kris exactly the same way I make beer by myself or with friends on my patio, but instead of making 5 gallons of beer, I made several hundred gallons of beer. The experience was really awesome, even though it was physically tiring to move so much heavy equipment and ingredients around.
When we were done cleaning up everything, we sat outside and had a celebratory beer with a light dinner. About halfway through our meal, my lack of sleep and days of intense work caught up with me, and I felt like I was going to fall asleep at the table. Kris drove us back to the train station, and I again fell asleep before the train even began to move.
I’m very lucky that I get to do the things that I do, and I’m grateful that all the hard work I’ve put into my life allows me to do these super fun and awesome things.