Call it an epiphany. Call it a whim. Call it a drunken moment of, "Hey! We should do that!"
Whatever it's called, deciding to brew a batch of beer at home isn't one of my greatest ideas. Nor is it my worst.
The missus and I were searching out a new hobby, one that wouldn't consume our spare time, but that we could enjoy all the same. Being the types to enjoy a good ale, we thought it might be worthwhile to look into the growing trend of home-brewing beer.
Not knowing the first thing about concocting the cold stuff, we thought it would be best to start out simple. Fortunately, a company called Mr. Beer specializes in helping first-timers.
Everthing the amateur brewmeister needs to whip up a weizenbier is included, and provides easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions. Plus, if it turns out like toxic sludge, the loss on the investment is neglible.
What follows is a journal of sorts documenting the process of brewing our first brand of "bathtub" beer.
Made a trip to Bev-Mo in Stockton. The mission was simple: Pick up a Mr. Beer home-brewing kit.
The doors open with an air-conditioned "PHIIIIIIIIIISH!" Distraction is instant.
"Ooh, look! Cheese," I point out to my wife. We hover. We sample. We pick up a block of white cheddar.
The mission continues to the beer aisles. Plenty more distractions in the form of already brewed ales, stouts and hefeweizens in pretty bottles line the shelves. We stay true.
The deluxe Mr. Beer home-brewing kit awaits us on a top shelf. We place it in the cart along with an extra brew pack (in case we are successful and want to attempt this a second time).
Cost: $39.95, available at Bev-Mo or online at http://www.mrbeer.com">http://www.mrbeer.com
Included: 1 Brew Keg with Lid and Tap Assembly, 1 Standard Brew Pack, 12 Reusable Plastic Caps, 1 Complete, Easy to Follow 4 Step Brewing Instructions, 1 Brewing with Mr.Beer¨ - Brewers Guide
Source: Mr. Beer
The "10-Guage IPA," as I called it, came to mind because while I can't consider any one beer my "favorite," it was notable for being an expermient into the ranges of making a "big beer."
For this beer I used about 12 pounds of English malt extract and a pound and a half of, I believe, 40L Crystal grain.
With a monstorous malt base, this beer needed nearly a full pound of pellet hops.
I dropped Centennial and Kent Goldings in the main boil and added some Cascade in the final stage.
My intent was to give the beer a firm hop "bite" with the initial taste, which would transistion to a strong English malt finish accompanied with a lingering hop roughness.
I dry hopped with Horizon after two weeks of the initial fermentation that was brought on using two vials of White Labs English ale yeast. The Horizon brought on a devlish hop finish that not only lingered, it persisted.
Alcohols came in at around 9.5 to 11 percent and drinking a few 22 ounce bottles of the 10-Gauge was a feat that I discovered few had the stamina to accomplish.
Don't worry though, this homebrewer found the strength.
- Andrew Adams
Checked out and went home.
Opened kit and started following instructions. Brew keg is sanitized. Measuring and mixing utensils are sanitized. Wort is made with UME (unmalted extract). Smells like feet. Averted nose while mixing.
In less than 30 minutes, first batch is resting comfortably in brew keg, out of direct sunlight in room with a steady temperature between 68 and 76 degrees farenheit. Brew will ferment over the course of two weeks.
Waited some more and took a nap. Boss got angry.
Checked progress of beer. Cloudiness slowly lifting. When clear, beverage will be ready to bottle, carbonate and condition.
Came up with name for our first batch - "Hello, My Name Is Beer." Had a congratulatory drink for cleverness.
Began a second batch. One of these is bound to be semi-drinkable.
Added sugar to bottles for natural carbonation. Most methods use forced carbonation. We're not that brave.
Sampled first batch before bottling. Mmm … yeasty. Hopes still not high.
Slowly poured beer into bottles. Capped bottles and put into cool, dry storage. Carbonating will be done and beer ready for condition when plastic bottles are rock-hard.
Placed bottles in cold storage unit (refrigerator) for conditioning. Beer to remain there for two or three more weeks. This is called lagering.
Figured out plenty of patience is required in this hobby.
Sampled second batch. Less yeasty. More feety. Placed in bottles for carbonating.
Process still underway. End result to be reported on in later entry.
So as the reader can see, brewing beer is a lengthy, patience-requiring hobby. With any luck, this batch will be drinkable, and we'll be able to try new recipes while expanding our barley-wine knowledge.