Friday, August 20, 2010

Bored and thinking of Brewing

As most of the people out in the real world, I am stuck at work today. It has been an especially boring day here. There isn't much to do.  So what else would I do, but think about brewing all day.  I started by updating my calander for all the things I need to do with the brews that are currently aging. Planning when I am going to rack my stout into the secondary and then when I'm planning on bottling it. I made sure to make a note of when my golden ale would be ready to drink.

Well, that didn't satisfy my brewing thoughts for the day. I got on the Austin Homebrew Supply website and looked around a bit. I have heard good things about them and figured since I was going to be in Austin in a few weeks, i'd check them out and pick up a recipie or two.  Two of the recipies stuck out. First was a texas blonde ale. I figured I needed to brew something light and refreshing.  The other was yet another stout. A chocolate Rasberry stout.  Normally I'm not a fan of fruit flavored beer, but this one just seemed like it wouldbe a good idea.  I was thinking Christmas gifts.  So I went ahead and planned those brews out a little bit. I had to reschedule some things. I was starting to run out of fermenters. 

Well, I would have loved to be done with the day and go home, but our office ours aren't that flexible.  I got into the creative spirit.  I decided the best use of company time was for me to design some bottle labels.  Here are what I came up with.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Saturday's Brew

Saturday was brew day.  As I mentioned previously, I wanted to try something different. A stout.  Neither my brew buddy nor myself had tried such a concoction yet. We mostly stuck to continental ales.  I had a stout the other day and it had hit me that I wanted to brew that next.  My trip to the brew supply store landed me a recipe for a Dry Irish Stout.  At first I wasn't quite sure the type of stout I wanted to do.  This recipe was supposed to be the most like the quintessential stout, Guinness, so I went with it. 

My brew for the day started with steeping the grains. I honestly didn't thin that grains soaking in hot water could make such a black liquid.  I was utterly surprised. I let it steep for a little longer than recommended trying to get every bit of flavor I could out of the grains.  After a quick sparge, i moved my brew downstairs to the propane burner for the boil.  In hindsight, this was a great idea.  We got the wort up to boil and added the malt extract. This was thicker than used motor oil and just as dark.  It clung to the sides of the pail and had to be scraped off with a spoon.  I could only think of how dark the wort already was and then adding this much extra color and goo to it was just going to make it darker. Exactly what I was looking for. I wanted a black as night stout, and from the looks of things, I was going to get it.

So I get the boil going, and remember that good idea about brewing outside, well here's where it paid off.  My wort hit the hot break and rose quickly out of my 5 gallon stainless steel brew pot.  The wort spilled over the sides onto my driveway.  It looked like an oil slick.  Luckily for me, it didn't stain like oil.   The brew continued without incident. I added my hops at the appropriate times, boiled for right at 1 hour and then quickly stuck the pot into an ice bath.  It cooled quickly, but I quickly came to the realization that my wort had reduced down quite a bit. I had to add a lot of water to bring my final volume up to 5 gallons. I'm hoping that doesn't throw off the flavors of the beer. 

Once the wort was down to temp, I transferred it to my fermentation bucket, threw in my yeast, and stuck it in the closet.  I was seeing fermentation bubbles within 12 hours, which was the first time I checked it. I looked at it on the Monday evening following the brew and there was a nice krausen on top.  I am planning on letting it sit in the primary for 10 days, then move it to the secondary fermenter for about a month, and then bottle age it for 6 weeks. Should be ready about Thanksgiving.

Happy brewing!

Monday, August 16, 2010

First taste

One often find a sense of accomplishment in the simplest of actions. This weekend I cracked the first of my home brewed beers. The hiss of the carbonation and the fog lifting out of the bottle made me realize that I had actually created a drinkable beer. The realization was confirmed when I poured the beer to reveal a firm head, rich color, and carbonation bubbles rising from the bottom of the glass like strings of pearls.

I slowly placed the pint glass to my lips took in the aroma of the beer and sipped. My friend did the same. We exchanged a slight nod followed by a second sip. It was confirmed. Not only was the beer drinkable it was damn good. The beer had a slight, not over powering bitterness up front with a smooth body. It finished with a slightly fruity note that could easily be missed. Not overly hoppy at all. All in all it was exactly what I was looking for.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Homebrewing Begginings

So now that I've officially started my home brewing blog, I guess I should catch up on what is going on in my brewing world. 

I had been interested in brewing for quite some time but have never attempted it before.  I, as most people I assume, thought that the hobby would be terribly difficult and expensive to get into.  Neither of which could be further from the truth. 

A guy I know through about 4 degrees of separation decided that he was going to start brewing a while back.  I took a little interest, but never really questioned him on it or how difficult it was. I did taste some of his beers; they were a little hoppy for my taste, but not bad.  This renewed my spark of interest, thinking to myself, if this guy can do it, surely so can I. 

A month or so passed and I moved no closer toward my goal of creating the perfect ale.  That is until another of my close friends started talking to the aforementioned home brewer and had his interest sparked as well.  While chatting a couple of weeks later, my friend told me that he brewed up some beer the previous weekend and that it was remarkably easy and fun. 

My buddy said that he was planing on brewing again the upcoming weekend and suggested that I come over and brew up a batch of my own.  Then came the great internal debate of which kind of beer should I brew.  I knew lagers were out considering most of them require a cold fermentation and I, unfortunately, do not have a spare beer fridge. 

I wanted something with body and a full flavor.  Something people would hopefully remember if they drank it.  No IPAs, really, really not a fan.  I went for an American Amber Ale.  For about $40 I had what I needed, at least for the time being.  I had a fermentation bucket with an airlock and the recipe kit, which was an all extract kit, great for a novice brewer such as myself. 

So came the first brew day.  Easy enough, just follow the directions that came with the extract kit. I changed the proportion of hops that I added at the beginning of the boil versus the end. According to the directions this will lead to a less bitter, more fragrant beer.  My old friend turned brew buddy and I worked to chill off the wort and transfer it to my fermentation bucket.

I must say that there was actually some excitement that was derived from checking up on my concoction throughout the week, looking at the air lock, checking for bubbles and other signs the yeasties were working, turning the wort into beer. 

At the end of the week, I decided that it was time to bottle.  In hindsight, I probably should have let it sit for at least another week, but I am impatient and  wanted to move the process forward, but mostly because I was hooked and wanted to brew yet another batch and with only one fermentation bucket, I needed to push the process forward. 

Bottling was easy, taking the two of us only about 20 minutes to complete 2 cases worth of beer.  There was such a sense of accomplishment seeing the boxed up case of full beer bottles holding my own creation.  Now I knew I had to wait...I hate waiting. But in the name of good beer I did, and am still waiting for that matter.

For my second brew, I went wanted to create a clone of a local beer called Fireman's 4.  I can't honestly describe the flavor, but it is a good beer none the less.  I followed the brew plan as was laid out by the good folks at the brew supply company.  They had to modify a house recipe to give me the flavors I was looking for, so I trusted their opinion. 

This time I wanted to try going to the next step in creating a home brew.  I decided that I would use a double stage fermentation.  From what I've pulled together in all my research is that this helps to clarify the beer and eliminates yeasty flavors and removes proteins from suspension.  This is where the brew currently sits and has for 12 days and where it will remain for at least another 3. 

I promise, my following entries will not be this long, I just felt the need to catch you up to speed.  I will say that I will probably be brewing in the upcoming weekend. I am seriously throwing around the idea of a stout.  I had a St. Arnold's Stout the other day and it reminded me how much I actually like them.  Look for upcoming post about this brew. 

I will not only be using this blog to tell about my experiences, but also log my brewing from week to week.