Some time around 1999-2000 I began brewing my own beer. It kinda started on accident really. I was up in my parents garage attic and stumbled upon a wine making kit. I was intrigued. It came with all kinds of cool gadgets and gizmos. I took it upon myself to take this dust ridden brewing thingy and give it a whirl. I would end up taking it to a brew shop to have them convert it into a beer making machine. I was set.
Its been 12 years now and over 25 batches. I took a few hiatus from brewing. I have brewed many Irish Stouts, Red Ales, American Cream Ales and my favorite…Oatmeal Porter. This batch, is an Irish Stout prepped and ready to drink by Saint Patricks Day. Cant wait to sample.
Heres the run down. I go to my local brew shop, The Weekend Brewer, to purchase all ingredients and hardware. Spigots, valves, hydrometers, stoppers…They have it all.
The very first rule of thumb for homebrewing is sanitize, sanitize and more sanitization! Be clean or don’t brew at all. So after the kitchen is all cleaned up, I spread out the ingredients and begin the process.
Step one is getting the Yeast active and prepared for a vigorous 2 day feast on the fermentables. This particular yeast strain was active within 30 minutes of pitching.
For the first half hour to forty-five minutes, all the grains are mixed and placed in a mesh bag. The grains must stay submerged in 150-155 degree water.
After the grains have steeped for the proper amount of time, it is now time to sparge. This is the process of washing the grains of any remaining fermentable sugars. I heat 1/2 gallon of water to 170 degrees and pour this into a cooler. I attached a valve and simply open the valve slightly and let the hot water drip onto the grain bag. This process is done slowly to assure that all is rinsed.
Once the grains have been cleaned, I mix the remaining unhopped malt with the sparged water and create was is called the wort. The wort is brought to a controlled boil and the hops are introduced at particular times. This batch calls for aroma hops at 30 minutes into the boil and then finishing hops at the last 15 minutes.
As soon as the boil is done, the wort has to be cooled as soon as possible. Beer without yeast is a vulnerable beer. I put my stock pot in an ice water bath. This cools the beer in about 30 minutes or less. As soon as the beer has cooled the wort is poured into a 6 gallon bucket (primary fermenter). Top off to the 5 gallon mark with cool water and stir. At this point you take your hydrometer reading. This is a reading that gives you your fermentable solids before the yeast is introduced. Then you can do some simple calculations to figure your alcohol content and so forth. Good tool to have and important tool to have on bottling day.
As soon as you take the hydrometer reading you introduce the yeast. The bucket is then sealed and an airlock is inserted. This allows gas produced from feeding yeast to escape and prevents bacteria from entering the batch.
The beer stay in this bucket for about 2 days or until fermentation slows or comes to a stop. At this point the beer is transferred to a secondary fermentation device called a glass carboy. Here the beer will clear and age for about 7-14 days depending on batch style.
When the clearing is done in the secondary, it is time to bottle the beer. This is the fun part. You simply transfer back into the primary bucket, add some priming sugars, fill the bottles and then cap. Age to beer batch recommendations. Most beer can be sampled with in 7 days of bottling, but will be blended nicely at about 4-6 weeks or so. With that said, now comes the worst part of homebrewing. The waiting game.
Until then folks, Cheers and be Merry!