Massive Failures and what you can learn from them

If every one of my brewing experiments was a success, I would be dissapointed. This may shock you, or you may understand that success doesn’t always produce learning. Sometimes the failures you come across can be just as educational. Thomas Edison was once asked why he continued to test substances for the filament in the lightbulb. At this point he had 500 failed tests. A scientist of the time asked him “You have 500 failures, doesn’t that discourage you?” To which he replied “No, I’ve learned of 500 substances that can’t be used for my needs.”

For example: Chickpea Beer. I found a source (sort of) that spoke of a Medieval Beer made of Chickpeas. It talked about how to sprout the chickpeas, roasting and grinding them, and then boiling them with hops and fermenting with ale yeast.
The beverage was being brought back by an Israeli Brewery and based on the information given, it seemed to be fairly straight forward.

Ingredients:

  • 5lbs Chickpeas
  • Ale Yeast
  • Water
  • Hops (1 oz of Tetnanger)

Equipment:

  • 2 Sheetpans
  • Glass Jar
  • Metal Spoon
  • Mortar and Pestle

So oddly enough, the reference I used the first time that had the original recipe is now unavailable. The webpage doesn’t exist anymore. This was after I followed the instructions but before I could copy the original recipe and post it here. This probably should have been a key off there was something fishy. The original Israeli Brewery page no longer claims it’s a medieval beverage.

So to start we got a large quantity of Chickpeas and soaked them in water for 3 days until they started to sprout:

As you can see, two days of soaking and the chickpeas were sprouting just like you’d malt grain. I rotated the peas several times so that none of the peas were sitting directly in the water too long. Also the water started developing a funky smell, not unlike warm cheese so I drained the water and replaced with fresh a couple times over 2 days until the sprouting was complete.

The Chickpeas were then layed across 2 sheetpans and at 160 degrees I dried them out over the span of 12 hrs (overnite) so that the chickpeas became dry and brittle (it was malted). The drying and malting process was pretty unpleasant as it continued to smell like hot cheese (and not the good kind, more like the artificial mac n cheese variety).

The chickpeas were then ground using a Mortar & Pestle until it was mostly powder with a few lumps. Sparge water was put over the mix at 170*F and let sit for 2 hrs. Did I mention that the cheese smell wasn’t getting better?

The mixture was then drained off into a pot and boiled with 1 oz of Tetnanger hops. Strangely the hops didn’t improve the smell. It was then covered and yeast was pitched. It was allowed to ferment for 2 days before I became concerned that a rabid racoon had gotten in a fight with a skunk and they both died under the counter somewhere in my kitchen. Removing the top was a mistake and I didn’t dare taste it for fear of Ptomaine poisoning.

At this point the entire batch was dumped in the woods. Over the next couple of days I noticed the coyotes weren’t howling each night anymore. This may not be related but it seemed rather coincidental. Regardless, the beer is now being touted as a Gluten Free alternative and for all my efforts it probably wasn’t a period recipe to begin with but a nice marketing gimmick. Live and learn.

Some of my other favorite failures are the “Pictish Heather Ale” I tried to impress my wife with. It needed the heather to be heated above 1408F before brewing with it. Ended up being very sour. My first attempt at Sake (never did get the deposit back from the apt) and a chili beer I once made that would eat the glass mug it was served in.
Don’t let failures get you down. They can be expensive but they make you aware of common problems that can occur. Like my father says “Betcha won’t do that again”.