Well, here I sit at the end of 2010 and I’ve only made one post so far this year. Bad blogger bad. I suppose I could have taken up the reigns and written about Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck, but I figured my pal Mike Brandes (at left twirling the styli) had that covered (thanks Mike). I’ll make it up to anyone who happens to come visit the site by telling you a story on how my one and only brew day of 2010 went.
First thing first. Without ingredients, you can’t make squat. Rather than go the online route this time for my goodies, I stopped by our local homebrew supply shop BX Beer Depot in Lake Worth, Florida. If you are in the area and have time, swing by and check out the shop. They always have something new on tap, offer homebrew classes and usually have a tiki event every Friday night.
It has been several years since I last brewed a batch so the crew at BX helped me out and set me up with a Cream Ale kit. This ale is supposedly a little soft without so much of a hop kick to it. The kit consisted of some light malt extract (the sugar), Cara and Wheat grain, Northern Brewer and Mt. Hood hop pellets, Safale US-56 dry yeast, caps, priming sugar (for bottling day) and a steeping sock to keep the grains together. Also included were the all important instructions consisting of how to take care of each step. With the instructions and my handy dandy brew book (How to Brew: Everything You Need To Know To Brew Beer Right The First Time ), I was ready to get going.
The most important thing you have to keep in mind when brewing is sanitation. All your bottles, kettles, spoons, etc. have to be clear of any gunk or goobers (visible or not) that might throw off the brew or prevent the yeast from taking hold. This consists of boiling up water and using a sanitizer or small amount of bleach to clean off everything that comes in contact with the soon to be beer.
A bit of this prep work can be done while you are standing around waiting for things to boil. I sanitized all my utensils and the 6 gallon carboy (which will hold the finished wort and will be the primary fermentation vessel) while I boiled up the water for steeping the grain.
In addition to getting everything clean, I also got the yeast started rehydrating so it has a better chance to get to work once it gets pitched into the wort.
And don’t forget brew music. Ryan Adams Live at Das Haus was today’s choice.
Steeping The Grain
To steep the grain (Cara and Wheat), three gallons of water are brought almost to a boil in a large pot. All the grain is placed into a grain sock (think cheesecloth) and soaked for around half an hour. This is a good time to make sure everything is ready for the next step including double checking everything you need later is sanitized, two gallons of water are being cooled to bring down the temperature of the finished wort, and your primary fermentation vessel is ready to go.
Adding The Malt
After the grain has been steeped for 30 minutes, pull the pot off of the heat and get ready to pour in the malt extract (sugar basically) into the wort. You want to do this off the heat so the malt can dissolve without sticking to the bottom of the pot and the wort doesn’t boil over on you before everything is dissolved. I dumped in 5 lbs. of the malt extract and stirred it until just about everything was dissolved. Once dissolved, I moved the pot back over the heat and brought everything to a boil.
Boiling The Wort
Watch out for a boil over! As you are bringing the wort up to a boil, you have to very careful and watch the pot to make sure the wort doesn’t boil over on you. In the video above, you can see how quickly it can turn on you. Trust me, you don’t want to clean up this kind of mess. Once the wort comes to a boil, the timer was set for an hour long boil and the pot was stirred and watched the entire time, moving it off the heat if it was going to boil over. During the boil, two sets of hops were added, one 15 minutes into the boil and another 50 minutes into the boil. I’m convinced that I should go into business selling Man-Pouri. Dried hops would be the main ingredient.
Cooling The Wort
Before you can pitch the yeast and store away your beer to ferment, you need to cool down the wort to fermentation temperature which for ales will usually be in the 68 to 78 degree range. If you added the yeast at a higher temperature, you run the risk of either killing the yeast or having too vigorous of a fermentation. Neither of which is very good. One gallon of very cold (almost frozen) water is added back to wort to help cool it down quicker and the entire pot is put into an ice bath and chilled down until it gets below 80 degrees. Once it is cooled down, it can be poured into the primary fermenter.
Pitching The Yeast
Added to the primary fermenter is another gallon of fresh water (bringing the total to 5 gallons) then the cooled wort is added. When you’ve got about half the wort poured in, I go ahead and pour the rehydrated yeast into the fermenter and then continue adding in the rest of the wort. This helps stir up the yeast throughout the batch. This is the last time I’ll shake or otherwise introduce unnecessary air into the fermenter.
Storing And Cleaning
Once you’ve gotten all the liquid into the fermenter, go ahead and find a nice storage location that is out of the light and keeps a fairly regular temperature. My aim is to keep this brew between 65 and 75 degrees as much as possible. Move the fermenter into its location and affix an air lock to the top to let gas out and keep air from getting in. It probably isn’t a bad idea to put some towels around the carboy as well. I’m just sayin’.
Now that the carboy is in place, clean up the kitchen, open a beer and enjoy some football and wait until it is time to move the beer to a secondary fermenter in about a week or so.
Happy 2011 and remember “yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.” – Grand Master Oogway