Thursday, January 29, 2009

Brewing Beer

Unfortunately I don't have any photos of this whole process as it was definitely quite comical watching Shannon and I dunk the strainer into the already strained wert (beer before it ferments) and going through the process of restraining it again. But here is our little story of our first attempt to make beer.

My parents have been brewing beer since I was in high school and it has definitely become quite the little operation they have going on in the basement with one beer fermenting in one fermenter while the another one is the secondary fermenter and then another whole batch is bottled for the last little bit of finishing. This whole process is not new to me.

When Shannon and I decided that we were interested in brewing, we thought, who better to call than 'Mom and Dad.' Turned out to work out well, when they arrived for the engagement party in Houston this past december they arrived with the Deluxe beer brewing kit, it is definitely deluxe and very cool at that. As soon as Shannon and I got back here to Longmont and had an afternoon to head to the Beer supply store and make our first batch we did.

The plan was simple, let's make an easy to do pale ale (one of our favourites) that does not take too long and has less of a chance to screw up. We paged through our copy of Charlie Papazian's Homebrewing Guide and then picked out the "Gone Fishin' Pale Ale."

After acquiring everything we 'hopped' to it and started boiling the boiling hops (Amarillos) and the malt in our very big pot. After 50 minutes of boiling it was time for the next hop addition (I can't remember exactly what this is right now) and then 10 minutes later we added the aroma hops.

Well it turns out that we were just dumping in the little hop packages we had bought without actually measuring out the required amount. For the first set we were fine, but the next two additions did not call for as much hops, making, at least we will see in another week or two, a very hoppy pale ale. I am not going to complain because I am a hop-head as many beer connoisseurs call it, so a hoppy pale ale is quite delightful.

After this process the next process is to strain the wert and cool it down as quickly as possible to 77 degrees. The reason you do this as quickly as possible, to keep out wild yeast strains from the air that turn good beer bad! We strained, dropped the strainer back into the wert requiring another straining process and then proceeded to do this again, how? I don't know!

Eventually we got it right and no more straining was required. But it cause a lot of beer to be spilled on the kitchen floor and thus an extensive clean up (hops are very bad for dogs and cats and we have one of each). After this clean up and the wert finally cooling down, well, we added the yeast, capped up the primary fermenter, checked the specific gravity (one way to estimate the amount of alcohol it will be when done fermenting, we estimate 5% by volume) and put it in the closet until the next week.

One week later, the easty part comes, transfer to the secondary fermenter. Well, luckily this is the really easy process and we actually succeeded in not making a mess of things. Now we are the wonderful stage where we didn't think things through and realized that we had forgotten to save beer bottles for bottling. By all accounts we are supposed to be bottling tomorrow night, that is not going to happen as our current bottle inventory is 36 and we need at leas 60 bottles. I guess the lady at the local liquor store must think we are alcoholics because every couple of days we come in buying two more six packs.

My fingers are still crossed that this beer will turn out well, but we will have to see, only a couple more weeks.

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