Let me take you on a journey through the mind, heart, and mouth of the consumate beer enthusiast. This tale will be in many parts as it is part instructional and part reflection. A memoir to what may be a new frontier in my life as a brewer, of the home variety. Make no mistake, this was a first attempt, at what I am now lovingly referring to the Bitches Brew. Now I did not take on this path to thirst quenching on my own, I was joined by friend, colleague and fellow brew lover Ben Jeavons.
We set out to make a Pale Ale that could actually be consumed by our friends without them having to pretend to like it to save our feelings. We had some tools, a book and some patience and through it all we had fun. We dreamed of a delicious concoction all our own and we were over all pleasantly surprised with our creation. Remember that you can do this. People have been brewing beer almost as long as they have been baking leavened bread.
Patience is really your key ingredient. Fermentation, Carbonation, Bottling and Boiling all take time. A lot of time. Some secrets to our success may have been our ability to neglect things. But in some places it did create minor havoc. Forgetting that you are brewing Beer and that the fermentation could take a few weeks to complete is the biggest point I can stress. So relax and have a cold one.
What we used:
1. Car Boy – 5gallon glass bottle
2. Boiling Pot – can be a stock pot, needs to hold over 2galons of liquid
3. 2stage Filter – removal of particulates before entering fermentor
5. Homebrew starter kit – included wert, yeast, grain and hops (and some instructions)
8. Home Brewer’s Guide
First, Boil the grain in an athletic soc basically, for a certain amount of time so that the natural flavors of barley into the water. A sort of barely tea if you will that needs to be slightly boiled. Make sure that the grain doesn’t sit on the bottom or it will taste burned which is bad. To get around this obstacle we tied some string to the top of the bag and then suspended it from a spoon that went across the top of the kettle.
From this point on its boil boil boil, starting with the wert and ending with the hops, which are added at 2 different times. The wert is the sweet honey syrup and is as thick as such. Once that wonderful roll starts after a few moments you add your first portion of hops into the drink.
After the first hops you wait a while (about 20min) and through in the last portion and wait about 15min. Then its time to move it to the car boy which is the last stop for the brewing. This is a single staged fermentation. 2 stage fermentation essentially uses 2 carboys. You move the contents from one to the other during the fermentation process. It being our first time we decided that single stage would have to suffice.
As we poured the very warm elements into the carboy for cooling and eventual fermentation, we used 2 stage filtering to try to limit the impurities going into the bottle, which, in retrospect, may have been an error. As it got close to the end we could only pour a couple of pints at a time before having to stop and scrape all the goo out of the 2 filters.
Super badass right?
Next you have to add water to fill the carboy to the appropriate level which is the last line before the neck (approx 5gal mark). As you add your cool water to the warm brew, you will want to watch the temperature drop to the desired area for your yeast to be added. To warm you risk killing the little monsters and too cold they won’t activate quickly.
Our last step in this post is the topping off and hiding. You want to cap your newly minted batch quickly and feed a long tube out of the top into a spill catching bucket. Why? Well within the first few days, if all was successful, your yeasts will go to town eating all the sure they can find in the bottle and foaming like crazy. This foam, combined with the low ceiling in your bottle will need to displace itself somewhere. A little bucket nearby should be good enough.
Store your masterpiece in a dark (seriously lightless, a closet would be great), cool, dry place and allow at least a week and a half so that all the heavy foaming is over before you put the secondary (fermentation) cap on that has a water valve to allow the bag gas to escape and the good environment to promote the fermentation process.
Now, have yourself a beer and relax. You did some good work.
Thanks for reading.
Zach (brewmaster in training)
editors note: The Supplier of all our Hardware plus some bottles and caps is Greg Knaddison. This friend of friends was gracious enough to allow us to use his equipment free of charge and indulge in our flights of beer fancy. Many Thank Yous.