Beer is one of those needlessly mystifying topics to me. It’s just beer! But a complicated, precise process is behind those pints I rush down my throat without a second thought. I decided it was time to give beer some respect after all it has done for me, so I stopped by 21st Amendment Brewery to get a handle on some hops, and a freshly brewed pint.
I meet a tall dude who comes to work in rubber boots at 8:30 a.m. His business card says “Zambo, Head Brewer.” No last name required because “it just confuses people.” Zambo started brewing 30 years ago in his kitchen with five gallon buckets. Now it’s a spiritual thing to him. He launches into why pioneers “built breweries, then the churches!” and words like hops and yeast are introduced. I’m lost in his vast explanation, so we head to the brewery for some visual learning.
The brewery is one small room with 12 large metal tanks, six of those are serving tanks connected to taps at the bar. Zambo’s talking and working fast. I’m still confused. He’s growing weary. We decide it’s best for him to explain while I drink.
He pours me a pint of their brand new MCA (fallen Beastie Boy homage) American Session Stout with cascade hops and IBU 27. Huh? Stout means it’s a dark, roasted beer. Session means it has below 5% alcohol. Hops grow on a vine and look like mini pinecones. They are a natural antibiotic and give beer different flavors. Cascade hops have an orange zest aroma. IBU stands for International Bitterness Units, a scale which goes up to 100.
The roasted barley in MCA leaves a coffee after-taste, so I feel fine about drinking this pint for breakfast. MCA tastes like Guinness, but… better. It’s definitely still dark but not as thick and the cascade hops make it really fresh.
Zambo nods and says, “Tastes alive in your mouth, right?” It does. A sign of an active beer is about an inch of head, which indicates proper protein levels to a brew master, and not-crappy tasting beer to us brew drinkers. In 30 minutes I learned more about beer than in my many years of drinking it.
21st Amendment doesn’t give scheduled tours but if you’re there and Zambo’s not too busy, he’ll give you a quick show-around.
All Photos by Summer Sewell