Our children are not our private labor force. But I've filled enough bottles in my time that when my daughter says, "I want to help!" -- well, it's hard to say no to an offer like that.
So on a pleasant fall day, surrounded by unlabeled bottles donated by Port City Brewing Company for the cause, I found myself supervising an eager kindergartener as she precisely filled bottle after bottle. Three cases later, the only thing she hadn't done was cap (finished with decently well-printed caps from GrogTag).
It's a fascinating experience to realize that your child has gone from a squirmy baby just trying to survive between 4-ounce feedings to a functional person who can actually help with your hobbies. While my daughter was filling beers and spilling less than most adults do in the process, I cleaned up. The capping day was done in 40 minutes.
This isn't the first time she's shown interest in the craft, of course, and it probably won't be the last. Indeed, for this batch, she and her friend were responsible for crushing several pounds of grain using the old-style crank method. She regularly stirs near-boiling wort to keep it from scorching. And she's a fan of dry hopping -- though she did not appreciate the first-hand experience of tasting those bitter little flowers.
I feel like I'm watching the limbs of a homebrew tree expand to form a canopy: with each new task she becomes capable of accomplishing, she relishes the chance to spread new branches and shade more ground. Maybe it's to spend time with me, maybe it's just because she's fascinated (I'm hoping, of course, that it's the latter) -- regardless, I welcome her involvement. And if my oldest is involved, that means the youngest won't be far behind.
(Oh wait, there she is.)
Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised, though. This is a girl who eats Grape Nuts because they smell like beer. She knows the scent of barley better than the smell of, say, oats. When I pulled the lid off the brew, she said, "That smells good." Then, as if realizing the notion of beer smelling good implied something else, she hastily added, But I don't get to taste it, do I?" (I dodged the question; she didn't get a taste.)
But I might be a little too pleased with this turn of events. After all, there's no telling what she'll do on bottling days 3, 7, or 17 years from now. Maybe I'll find that this tree has been cut down because it's in a parking lot. Or maybe I'll wake up one morning to a beautifully bready scent wafting through the house and realize that she hasn't been helping me lately, I've been helping her.
Mash out. Spin on.