Or, “How Nephilium Popped My (beer) Cherry”.
So with all the posts by Nephilium and Kinnath, I decided to dip my toe into the beer making hobby. I don’t drink the quantities I used to (not a bad thing), so I opted to follow Nephi’s advice and go with nano brew kits from Brooklyn Brew Shop. The kit with brewing supplies was just under $60 but I will be making many batches with it. The recipe kits run about $16.
Okay, before you IPA haters jump on your soapbox(and not a peep out of you, Ted), I chose single hop IPAs for a reason. I wanted to learn about the flavor and aroma profiles of the different hops. So there.
Anyways, the kit comes with pretty much everything you need. Grains, hops, yeast, sanitizer. For the process, it has a gallon jug, an airlock, thermometer, plastic tubing, and a racking cane. Since I made this batch, I’ve added a beer hydrometer and grain bags(you’ll see why). Everything else I needed I had on hand.
First off, everything gets sanitized. The instructions direct you to mix half the sanitizer with a gallon of water, the rest will be used during the bottling process. I’ve done a couple of modifications that I think make the process easier for me. I weighed the sanitizer and now I mix up a quart and also have a small spray bottle filled with sanitizer. It really made my life easier.
After that, comes the mash in. It takes an hour, and you have to keep track of the temperature. It needs to stay between 144-152 degrees, with it being stirred every so often. You’re basically making oatmeal here. You don’t use the whole amount of water. There’s a pot of water at the right temperature waiting to be added later. You also need an extra pot because the “wort” that’s created by steeping the grains gets poured over the grains twice.
So after an hour, “mashing in” is done. You raise the temperature to 170 degrees and strain into another pot. The liquid and additional four quarts of 170-degree water get poured over the grain twice.
As you can see from the photo, this is why I went to grain bags. I made a bit of a mess.
Next, we go to the boil. For this particular kit, it’s a 60 minute boil with hops added at specific times based on the recipe. Once the boil foams, you reduce to heat to a point where it’s just boiling, and start the process. I used the digital scale I use for charcuterie for weighing out the hops.
You lose 20% of volume during the boil, which leaves you a gallon of wort. Cool it on ice to 70 degrees and into the jug. I added a hydrometer to my supplies because this is what tells you if you achieved the specific gravity(sugar content) the wort needs to ferment to the proper alcohol level. This is also where you add the yeast(“pitch”) and shake to mix and add oxygen.
The sanitized tubing is stuck through the cap about an inch, and the other end sits in a bowl of sanitizer. The first couple of days is where the most aggressive fermentation takes place, and the airlock isn’t up to the task. After a couple of days, the tubing is replaced with the airlock, and then it’s time to wait for two weeks while fermentation does its thing. I’m using the guest bedroom closet that doubles as my “root cellar”. Close the vents and it stays a consistent 60 degrees during the winter.
The other purpose for the hydrometer is the determine if the beer has reached the proper alcohol level. I didn’t have one for this batch, so I crossed my fingers and hoped the recipe was correct.
At this point, the fermented beer is siphoned out of the jug and into a pot containing a half cup of water and three tablespoons of honey. The beer is flat, so this is the sugar that will ferment and provide carbonation. The beer is siphoned into sanitized bottles and placed back into the cool, dark closet for two weeks. I screwed up and lost my prime towards the end, so I ended up with six pints, instead of seven.
After two weeks, it’s time to chill, pour, and see if I made something actually worth drinking.
Hey! That ain’t half bad. Citrus notes from the Cascade hops, creamy mouthfeel with just a little bitterness on the finish and just the slightest hint of residual sweetness that will probably go away over time.
I’m enjoying this hobby, so far. It’s not saving me any money and given that we’re in the Golden Age of craft brewing, it’s not like I can’t find dozens of awesome beers at the local grocery store. I chalk it up to my toddler “me do it!” mentality. It goes well with gardening, canning, charcuterie, etc. The second single hop IPA is in the closet and I have a Cream Ale cold fermenting in the bar refrigerator. Next up is a batch of raspberry mead from the recipe Kinnath posted. When Spring comes, other things will take place of brewing to keep me busy, but when it’s like this outside, might as well make beer!