The other day I asked Steve about his favorite part of a brew day. He didn't isolate a particular part, but rather spoke of how brewing makes for a lovely, balanced day.
I understand what he means.
You get an early start. Your grain is all measured out and ready to go from the day before. You mash in and start to create lovely bready aromas. Your mash sits for an hour, allowing you to prepare for later parts of the day. Weighing hops. Scrubbing fermenters. Then its time to sparge and your full attention returns to the mash.
This ebb and flow of work continues throughout the day. Some parts of the brewing process require careful attention. Opening a valve just so. Taking and recording gravity readings. Other parts involve low-key monitoring and there is time to enjoy a cup of tea. Still other parts of the day get your heart rate going. Shoveling spent grain out of the mash tun.
A brew day is balanced, and satisfying. You hit your target numbers for temperatures and gravities (or you don't). You bask in hop aromas wafting out of the copper during the boil. You pitch yeast into your cooled wort and know you're on your way to an active fermentation.
Using all of your senses is part of the pleasure of brewing- and it makes you a better brewer.
Some of the best wisdom Saul and I have gleaned from Steve and Clement at Le Brewery has to do with using your senses. Tasting all along the way. Even tasting the water in your pipes to make sure you've drained out all last traces of caustic cleaner. Looking closely at your malt while sparging. Finding that perfect spot when the grains go gloss to matte to gloss. Listening. Knowing your brew system so well that you can hear when something goes wrong.
And then there is the sensory experience of cleaning.
Good brewers are meticulous cleaners. This insight is ever so important. Even this ceaseless cleaning can add to the balance and satisfaction of the day. Knowing your fermenter is sterilized and your beer will not be contaminated. Cleaning the hops out of the copper and thinking about the aroma and flavor their essential oils impart. Getting your mash tun spotless and ready for the next brew day.
I think Steve has it right. The joy of brewing is experiencing the whole process. The product is not bad either.
Now if only running a brewery were as balanced as a brew day. That part seems more like a balancing act.