In a former life I had been known as The Wet Bandit. If you’re familiar with the heart-warming 90s family film Home Alone, The Wet Bandits were the thieves who left the taps running in every house they visited. It was their calling card. Now, whilst I am not (and have never been) a thief, I did have a propensity for leaving taps on in domestic environments.
One might call it a curse. I would run a bath and then walk away to tend to other matters. Or, maybe, it was an even greater curse that I lacked the obsequious help from someone to draw a bath for me – ahem.
It once happened in my Holloway flat in London. One late Saturday morning, I had perhaps finished performing an array of household duties or something similarly mundane. I slouched onto the sofa to tune into my own senses – practising mindfulness – and my attention slowly flowed in to the beguiling sounds of trickling water. It had the same effect as one of the waterfall themed light and sound mind machines used for meditation I had somehow experienced in my childhood.
I had reached an alpha state.
Then, drifting between different levels of consciousness I imagined the water cascading out of a hosepipe flung over the housing estates 4th floor walkway and crashing to the ground. Slightly galvanised by this prospect and snapping back into beta I accusingly thought: What idiot has left the tap on?…Pause…. Damn, I’m the idiot! as I ran down stairs and waded towards my bath to turn off the taps. I had flooded both my bathroom and kitchen. Back to the household chores, I went.
Now no doubt a good few people have suffered this mishap once in their lifetime and whilst of huge annoyance and inconvenience, it would be of no major disconcert.
However, I can assure you there was a period in my life where this detail slushed around with such frequency that it coursed towards the pathological. My sense of responsibility being swept away by the tide of modern life stresses. An incurable ailment, I thought. However, my cognitive rewiring happened to be my first real brewing lesson. This came at my first brewing job doing all the so-called grunt work at a brewery called Sunny Republic. My tutor, the owner/brewer called Brent advised me on a very simple premise. Listen! Not listen…LISTEN. Listen with intent. Everything has noise. Silence is imaginary. As humans, we filter out those sounds, but as brewers we must curate them; give them meaning and context by association, so that when you hear running water you can discern that in the context of a mash schedule it’s okay. It’s a good sign. But in another context it could mean that all your beer is running down the drain.
Pumps can purr.
Pumps can growl.
Glycol chillers and fridges may hum or they may falsetto.
Different things have different pitches when they operate in their preferred state and brewer grows ever increasingly aware of a brewery͛s own particular scale. And, for the most part, will conduct these sounds in to a symphony.
Sure, there will be times when the notes will bend, but the trick is to be able to identify these off-keys and bring them back into perfect pitch. To relate this all back to my self-deprecating tale – back then I could hear the water swell over the bath edge and crash to the floor, but I didn’t properly engage.
It didn’t instantly trigger the necessary reaction to stem the flow. In contrast, nowadays, I am hyper aware, my hearing is so acute that I twitch at the sound of a leaky tap. Long gone are the days of overflowing bathtubs. I know the decibel of every drop of beer I brew. But do you know what?
Despite everything I have learned about listening, timing and responsibility, there is yet another saving grace: I actually prefer showers.