Sunday, March 3, 2013

Brewing and writing and boiling oh my!

Today has been bananas. Planned to get up & at 'em early-ish (9am) to start prepping for brew day. Today is the first time I've ever homebrewed, exciting! Woke up to find out that there was no water in most of the city. So, that's a problem. Then after a little while, it came back, but we were under a boil advisory, so while that didn't cause too much of an issue, it did cause us to waste like a case of bottled water when we added it to the wort after it cooled.

I discovered that brewing involves mostly two things; 1) sanitizing and 2) waiting.

I decided to do an easy recipe so I could focus on the process - I love a nicely hopped pale ale, and I purchased a monthly kit from Brewstock - their March kit is called "Pontchartrain Pale Ale."
Designed with spring in mind – this hoppy pale ale (not as hoppy as an IPA), will go with a walk along the lake, a picnic in the park or a concert in the square. Single hopped with Centennial, we balanced the bold floral and citrus notes against a warm caramel and hint of wheat flavor. Well-rounded, and not overly aggressive, the beer is not bitter, and well balanced in aroma. This kit includes- malt extract, milled grain, hops, yeast, steeping bag and instructions. It does not include priming sugar or bottle caps. Only $25.00!

Sounded like a go to me. Upon purchase and examination of the recipe, Tom's (who's homebrewed for years) concern was that the 2-row and wheat malt wasn't suited for just steeping, like the crystal malt. But since I had to hold the grains at 150 degrees for a half an hour, it was sort of like a mini-mash, and the fermentable sugars should have been able to be extracted from the grain during that process. (we'll see!)

After taking the grain out and rinsing it, it was time to bring the water (now with grain jus) to a boil, and then add the liquid  malt extract and bittering hops. Wait a half hour. Add the flavoring hops. Wait 15 minutes.

Add the aroma hops and the big coil of the wort chiller. Since the wort chiller will be in the wort once it's not boiling, I needed to make sure it was sterile. Boiling it for 15 minutes would take care of that.

So, OK, once all the boiling and adding of stuff was over, it was time to use Tom's wort chiller contraption. Basically, it's copper tubing that goes into the hot wort, you run cold water from your sink through it, it races around the cold wort and sucks the heat out through the amazing conductivity properties of copper. The water comes out the other side hot. Wait some more.

When I got to this point, I poured the wort out of the kettle through a strainer (to catch the hops and coagulated proteins) into the fermentor. This is where the no boil thing came into play. Instead of filling up the fermentor with regular filtered water from our sink, I had to empty like 15 bottles of water to get to five gallons. All right! Grabbed a sanitized ladle to take a sample that I could measure the original gravity (OG) with the hydrometer (I hit my numbers, yay) and then sprinkled the yeast on top. Covered it, stuck the bubbly thing in there, and I am still waiting for it to start bubbling, meaning the yeast is doing its thing, chowing down on fermentable sugars to make delicious alcohol.

A word on sanitizing: You do a lot of it. Gotta sanitize the fermenting bucket, the lid, and anything and everything that touches the wort once it stops boiling. Spoon, thermometer, ladle, strainer, etc.

My plan, as of now, is to brew different versions of a pale ale - different recipes, different techniques, etc., so I can see what works and what doesn't. Like a homebrew PROJECT. We'll see.

Also, my cover article for the Gambit is out! Allegedly, because I couldn't find them in the hour I allotted to look for them. I will now stop at the bagel place or doughnut shop in the morning. Tough life.

See my name? SEE IT!?!?!
So, big day!

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