When I received the assignment to witness the making of Fernson’s new porter, I was excited. It was 4:45 am on Friday morning when I rolled out bed, got dressed and headed out to the brewery. Derek Fernholz, one of the brewers at Fernson, greeted me as I entered. He had much more energy than I and asked if he could get me a coffee.
The morning started with a tour of the brewery itself. Back in the brew area, where the magic takes place, we started off by cleaning one of the tanks with a power washer. Blake Thompson, the other brewer at Fernson, arrived and offered me a morning flight. I couldn’t think of a better way to start my morning so I accepted. Not only was this great incentive for being up so early – I was about to witness the best incentive of all, the brewing process itself.
I wanted the perfect shot. I scoured for the right lighting, catching each moving party just so or an angle that would give me the “money shot.” But what I quickly realized was my “money shot” wasn’t going to be found in the process itself, it was standing right in front of me. Derek and Blake were like two mad scientists. They both had bed-head. Their eyes were baggy. They were just as tired as I was. But both of them were constantly smiling and geeking out over the science of the brewing process. It was like two little kids showing me their favorite collection of toys.
Blake had me try a handful of wheat oats. “Tastes like breakfast cereal, doesn’t it?,” he said. “The enzymes in your saliva are converting the oats into sugar creating a sweet flavor in your mouth.”
“Hey, come take a look this!,” Derek hollered down at me from the top of one of the tanks. He opened it and vapor rose to the ceiling. I looked down to see a metal rod spinning through the liquid. “Wait for it,” he said. “There!,” he exclaimed as the brownish/black porter made its way into the tank.
The two were tireless from the get-go and made sure that every part of the process ran smoothly to ensure that this porter would turn out exactly how they envisioned it. Everything was boiled down to an exact science. I was engrossed in their process that by the time I remembered to check my watch, it was already 8:15.
This is more than a hobby. This is an art and a passion. I am so thankful that I got to witness Derek and Blake’s love for their craft. Oh, and that I got to drink a little porter too!