Can't You Smell That Smell?
DAN SHARP AND DAN HOLZMAN are cruising down Washington Boulevard in Sharp’s used 1989 Honda Accord. The two are on a mission to buy a beer-making kit from Culver City Home Brewing Supply.
“You know where you’re going?” Holzman asks his friend, who sits behind the wheel wearing a T-shirt that reads, “Springtime Can Kill You.”
“Sepulveda, a few blocks east of Braddock?” answers Sharp, scratching his head like Stan Laurel.
“You know how to get there, right?
“Uh, the 405?”
Dan and Dan have been planning this excursion for months. They’re both chefs at an upscale restaurant on the Westside. Today they’re meeting a third friend, Gil, who also works with them — Gil really likes beer.
Who told you about this place?
“Gil did,” says Holzman, rolling his window down a crack.
Do you think he’s excited about it?
“Yeah, I think he probably is . . . I think he grew up in Salem . . .”
Sharp, who has a sarcastic sense of humor, finishes his friend’s thought: “In Oregon, brewing your own beer is a rite of manhood.”
Have you always wanted to make your own beer?
“Yeah,” Holzman says. “I bought The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing back in 1996 — it’s like the bible of home brewing. But I’ve never done anything about it.”
Is it hard to make beer?
“I think it’s hard to make good beer,” Holzman answers, “but the process is fairly simple. It takes some experience. Like with baking, it’s easy to follow recipes and get a fairly consistent product, but I think to come up with your own recipes, you have to have some milestones and kind of learn for yourself. The easiest way is ‘beer in a bag’ — you basically just put the stuff together and add water. They sell starter kits, which is what we’re gonna get. They come with the hops, and the this and the that, and everything is preroasted. Where it gets more complicated is when you make specialty beers, like a lager.”
“Johnnie’s Pastrami! . . . I love pastrami!” Sharp says, spotting the classic sandwich joint.
“You wanna go there?” Holzman asks, turning his head to look at the restaurant as they pass.
It’s 10:30 a.m., and neither of the Dans have had breakfast yet.
“I am so hungry,” Sharp says, proceeding forward like a true stoic.
Realizing they’re not going to stop for breakfast, Holzman continues to explain the process of making beer, as he sees it: “Beer is just like any other fermented drink — it’s the yeast eating the sugar and spitting out carbon dioxide and alcohol.
“Yeah, carbon dioxide,” Sharp confirms.
“But, as the recipes get more and more complicated, there are more issues. It’s easier to introduce bad bacteria — they call that skunked. Your beer gets skunked.”
Holzman, who has extremely blue eyes and apparently thinks his friend might now be lost, turns to Sharp and suggests, “Do you want me to call Gil and ask him where it is?”
“Yeah,” Sharp agrees, “why don’t we do that?”
“Well, because I told him you would know where it is, because you know everything,” Holzman laughs, indicating that he would rather not call for directions.
Sharp’s car, which he bought last week for $1,000, is in need of some TLC. The steering wheel, or rather the entire car, shakes each time it idles — this, the 29-year-old, refers to as “the free massage.”
“What is this place called again?” he asks, still scratching his head.
“Culver City Home Brewing Supply,” Holzman says, holding his Motorola but not dialing.
Sharp reads passing business signs out loud: “Culver Cleaners, 99-cent store, Noodles, Strudel . . . Jefferson Boulevard . . .”
Why don’t you call the brewing company?
“Listenyou,” Holzman laughs, making fun of his admitted reluctance to call for help.
“That would be one option,” Sharp continues sarcastically.
So it’s true guys really don’t like to ask for directions?
“We can rely on our sense of directional smell,” Sharp says with a handsome smirk.
EVENTUALLY, AFTER CONCEDING to call their friend, Holzman and Sharp arrive at the store, which is actually closed for the day for maintenance. The owner, who is there, sells them the deluxe kit anyway — $129.
After lunch at a Cuban place the two are back in the car.
What do you think? Are you excited?
“Yeah,” says Holzman.
“I thought that guy was supercool and down. He is clearly passionate, and has brewed a number of batches himself. He had a lot of blue ribbons.”
“Well,” Sharp jokes in a Scottish accent, a nod to Mike Myers. “Half of those were for his willy.”
“I think the whole process is less exciting than we anticipated,” Holzman admits.
“The yeast does all the work. It’s not like we actually do all that much besides getting the environment correct. It’s one of those patience things. To get a recipe right we might have to do four or five batches.”
“We actually have enough equipment to do a couple batches at a time,” Sharp inserts, then asks abruptly, “Where am I going?”
“My house,” Holzman answers.
Looking around to see where he is, Holzman realizes that his friend has, yet again, taken the long way.
“Are you on the 405?”
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