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Jen's World: Part of brewing beer is drinking beer

Editor's note: A longer version of this column appears in the August issue of Rochester Magazine.

It's a Friday morning and Steve Finnie, co-owner and head brewer at Grand Rounds Brewpub , has invited me to — what else — brew beer. Here's how the day goes down:

6 a.m.:Finnie and his assistant, Dave Mosher, start by grinding hundreds of pounds of barley in a large, industrial grinder. Or so they'll tell me later. Because at 6 a.m., I'm just stepping into the shower at home.

6:38 a.m.:The brewing room is thick with heat, noise, and farm-like aromas when I arrive. Mosher's grinding the last of 350 pounds of barley, while Finnie stands on a platform in the brewing room, using an oar to stir something in a massive metal bin. There are a lot of massive metal bins in the brewing room. Finnie tells me they're the mash tun (where the barley first soaks), the kettle (where the beer is transferred to boil), and the fermenters (where the beer, well, ferments).

6:47 a.m.:It's my turn to stir, or "mash in." I take the oar and gaze into the mash tun, where the last of the freshly ground barley is being emptied, via an overhead tube, under a shower of hot water. It's like stirring a giant vat of porridge.


7 a.m.:I ask Finnie how he got started. He tells me about years of home brewing, about developing recipes, about his dream of opening a brewpub like the ones he knew back home in Scotland. He talks about temperatures and chemical reactions, about ph levels and enzymes. He tells me that, today, we'll make Kolsch, a light, crisp German beer.

7:30 a.m.:It's time for the barley/water mash to rest. So we head downstairs to the "cold room," a walk-in cooler filled with kegs of Finnie's craft beer. Here, Finnie gets to work making an infusion — a Friday tradition. Today, he's infusing an IPA with grapefruit. He puts about a cup of grapefruit zest in a small contraption called a hop rocket, which he then connects to the line that runs from the IPA keg to its tap in the bar.

7:46 a.m.:"Part of the job is to drink beers," says Finnie as we head back upstairs. He pours me two IPAs — one with the infusion, and one without. The infusion tastes light and crisp and citrus-y. If you're going to drink beer for breakfast, this is the way to do it.

8:45 a.m.:Finnie and Mosher start the 75-minute process of transferring the beer to the kettle.

9:20 a.m.:Finnie pours me a Scotch ale from the tap, then one from the cask — a contraption that serves the beer via a traditional English beer engine — to compare. The cask beer is slightly warmer than the tap beer. Creamier, too. This is officially the most I've ever had to drink on the job. And I used to work in a bar.

9:45 a.m.:The kettle, which is where Finnie and Mosher add hops and any other ingredients (like, for the Kolsch , honey), is almost full. The beer will boil here for an hour.

10 a.m.:It's time to clean the mash tun. Empty of water, all that remains are hot, compressed grains. Mosher uses a plastic shovel to scoop the barley into plastic crates. Later, these crates will go to Hart Farms — one of Grand Rounds' meat suppliers — to feed livestock.

10:15 a.m.:Rochester Magazine art director Lisa Houghton stops in. I pour her a glass of the grapefruit-infused IPA so she can see how it tastes. And also so I'm not the only one drinking on the job. I'm not going down alone.


10:30 a.m.:Finnie mixes the yeast and puts it in the bottom of the fermenter.

10:45 a.m.:We head downstairs to measure 20 pounds of honey for the Kolsch.

11:30 a.m.:Having added the hops and honey, Finnie and Mosher now sanitize the series of hoses that will transfer the beer from the kettle, to a heat exchanger, through an oxygen infuser, and finally to the fermenter. There's a potentially OCD level of sanitizing going on here.

12 p.m.:Finnie takes some readings from the kettle and announces that it's time for the Kolsch to go into the fermenter.

1 p.m.:As the Kolsch completes its circuitous route to the fermenters, Finnie and Mosher sanitize the kettle. It's just the beginning of an hour-and-a-half of clean up — what Finnie calls the non-glamorous part of the job. But it pays off, because …

2 p.m.:Bartender Logan enters the brewing room carrying three drinks for, he says, "your hard work." He calls them "dangerous," and I'm not sure if that's the drink's name or its description.

2:30 p.m.:The brewing room is squeaky clean. The Kolsch is fermenting. I go home.

9 p.m.:My husband and I wind down for the night, and he asks me if I want a beer. "No," I answer. "I drank enough at work today."

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