January 19, 2008

What gives with the stink at John Harvard’s brew pub?

Posted in Fatherhood, Other Stuff at 10:08 pm by loolar

It just goes to show they’re right – you should always ask Dad first.

One Sunday last November, I was in Boston with some friends for a wedding. We were enjoying the football games at John Harvard’s brewery in Harvard Square, for a nostalgic trip to one of our former favorite haunts (all but one of us has since moved away; the remaining holdout now lives far out in the burbs).

Our experience was marred, however, by the apparent stink of manure that periodically wafted through the bar. After repeatedly checking our shoes, we dismissed it as a possible by-product of the local mounted police, brought in whenever the door opened.

I asked my dad (former brewmaster at a brew pub in Ohio), and he immediately recognized the issue. It seems that, after brewing a batch, if you leave the spent grain (the barley) around for a few days (after essentially accelerating the decomposition of the grain by using it to create the wort), it starts the stink up the place – really badly.

And the stink may be pretty close to what we mistook for manure, since you’ve essentially done the same thing to the grain that a horse/cow digestive tract would – brew it in a moisture bath, leaching out the sugars that can be metabolized, leaving behind bacterial waste and spent, indigestible fiber (a few days exposed to air takes care of the bacterial part of the equation).

He says they never brewed on Friday or Saturday if they couldn’t be sure they could get the grain hauled away (usually by a pig farmer), because the smell only took a day or two to develop. So he surmised that they did a brew on Friday, and we got the benefits of it on Sunday.

I’m sure you’ll all sleep better now that this mystery has been put to rest.

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