Big Mess

“The Brewer’s Backstory” – Episode 13

November 2004

The Brewer's Justice cover

Coming January 2016!

Brad yanked the fry basket from the oil and dumped the petrified sticks into the pan under the heat lamp. “What the heck, Sean?” he called across the kitchen.

“I got held up,” said the new line cook defensively as he came from the bathroom. Studying the mess that would have been golden French fries two minutes earlier, he mumbled, “Oh, crap. That’s not good, is it?”

Mack, the head cook, glared from the range with all six burners flaring. “Strike two. One more and you’re outta here!”

“Dude,” Brad whispered, “when you gotta go, just let somebody know. Put on a new batch. I’ll clean up.” He couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for Sean. Twenty-three years old, supporting a girlfriend and six-month-old baby. He grabbed the pan of hardened fries with a towel and slid the mess into the trash.

Brad had gone to Cabo with Eric in August, seriously burned out after ten months of bussing tables. He came back to Boulder ready for classes but not for dirty dishes. He talked with Ted, the owner of Funky Flatirons and, to his surprise, Ted had offered him a position in the kitchen. Here he was, three months into the job, with seniority over Sean, supposedly an experienced cook.

He was making a little more in the kitchen and learning a lot more, the kind of things he’d need to know when he had his own brewpub. Plus, the only messes he had to clean up were generally his own. Bussing tables had firmly convinced him that the world had way too many slobs. Two weeks ago, he had celebrated turning twenty by homebrewing a new stout recipe and not shaving. The plan was to have an awesome brewer’s beard on his twenty-first birthday.

Even before Cabo, he had used every excuse he could find to go into the Funky Flatirons brewery. He’d developed a friendship of sorts with Will, the thirty-three-year-old head brewer, who claimed that when he was Brad’s age, he too had been chomping at the bit to work in a brewery. Will seemed to enjoy the visits and the conversations. Jeremy, the assistant brewer, wasn’t a talker and didn’t exactly encourage Brad’s presence, but it was obvious he liked to be asked for his opinions on brewing.

“Good job,” Brad said, as Sean dumped a basket of golden fries into the empty pan. Brad shoveled a serving onto the first of four plates Mack had lined up and stuck it in the pick-up window. Out in the dining room, he saw Ted and Jeremy hustling toward the kitchen. “Mack, something’s up,” he managed to say before the door flew open.

“Brad, we need you in the brewery!”

Holy hell, he had heard Ted wrong. As the brewpub owner, Ted was keenly aware of state and federal regulations and the consequences if an inspector found an underage employee in the brewery. Whenever Ted saw him in the brewery, Brad knew he had a minute, max, to get himself out.

“Don’t just stand there,” Ted said. “Jeremy’s wife’s in labor!”

“No way,” Melanie, one of the servers, called through the pick-up window. “She’s only thirty-two weeks.”

“Her water broke. Her mother’s driving her to the hospital,” Jeremy said.

Brad followed the men through the dining room with his mind spinning. Ted knew how to run a brewpub—as long as he had competent brewers. With his head brewer off snowboarding in Steamboat, and Jeremy looking like a deer ready to bolt, Ted was up a creek.

“I’ve tried calling Will,” Ted said. “He’s not picking up.”

They stepped inside the brewery, and Jeremy grabbed the log with records of every beer ever brewed at Funky Flatirons. He pulled out his phone, glanced at the time and muttered, “Shit, I’ve got to go!” He scribbled a note then looked up at Brad. “Congratulations, the porter brew is all yours.”

“What?” Stunned, Brad looked from Jeremy to Ted.

“If an inspector walks in here today, we’re fried,” Ted said. “But I don’t have any choice.”

“Don’t sweat it, Ted,” Jeremy said, flipping pages in the log. “With that beard Brad’s growing, he looks older.” He found the page he’d been looking for and ran a finger down it. “Boil started at 11:28. Add the flavor hops—Cascade—at forty-five minutes. That’s in twelve minutes. Then boil fifteen minutes.”

Jeremy paused and pointed to the bag of pellet hops then at Brad. “You following?”

“Got it,” Brad replied, feeling confident. “I run it through the chiller after that?”

“Correct. When it’s time, get the yeast from the refrigerator. Make sure that the wort’s at sixty degrees when it goes into the fermenter. And don’t forget to turn on the oxygen!”

“No problem,” Brad said, pleased that he knew exactly how to handle things.

“I finished cleaning the mashtun,” Jeremy said as his phone started ringing. He pulled it from his pocket. “Hi, baby, I’m on my way.”

The woman on the other end sounded hysterical. Jeremy’s face contorted with a painful grimace. “Breathe deep. Breathe deep! I’m coming!” he said, already on his way out the brewery’s back door. He shouted over his shoulder, “Clean the lautertun. Otherwise, Will’s gonna have a helluva stinking, big mess to deal with tomorrow.”

“I can’t believe this,” Ted moaned. “Do you really understand what we need to do?”

“Yeah, I do,” Brad answered, reading over the log page. He eyed Ted. “What we need to do?”

“Yes, we. What do you want me to do?”

Brad took a breath. Do you know how to clean a lautertun?”

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