Today I finally was able to bust out the old equipment and brew some beer! I probably could have done so in the apartment, but I never felt there was a decent place to stash the pail. Now that we have a large basement, I’m all about it. We also have sauerkraut down there – but that’s another post.
I’ve only done the brewing one time before, but I have witnessed a friend do the full from-mash treatment. Beer Brewing isn’t that hard at the end of the day. The greatest beer I’ve ever had was consumed at the end of a long day. Sweat had been shed, which automatically makes the most low-grade of beers ten times better. It was a Samuel Sterns Taddy Porter and it tasted like rainbows and dreams. I’m fairly certain I saw a unicorn.
I won’t be getting at that level with this batch, but I am brewing a Porter. Aside from the style (last time was a red ale) there’s several other changes I made for this brew.
The biggest change was the venue. I am low on propane and brewed on the stovetop. This isn’t too hard to do when boiling only 2.5 gallons for the batch and I it also increased my control over the heat. My propane burner is hard to raise/lower the flame with. Originally, I was only going to steep the grain and finish outside, but I went with it all inside and was rewarded with no boil over.
This time, I also used tap water. It took me a while to get it set up – I kept forgetting how much I’d put in the pot. A milk jug could have worked but it would not lose it’s milk smell. Erring on the side of non-milk beer, I used my batter bowl instead. I wasn’t sure if I could maintain the steeping temp of 155 with the burner, so I boosted my water temp to 165, cut the heat, and steeped my grain bag for a half hour. It was about 156 when I turned the heat on again.
The only problem with the indoor range was that it took a long time for the wort to boil. Especially after adding the malt extract. I used an LME from Midwest (part of a kit) and warmed it up in hot water before pouring it in. The directions also noted it best to cut the heat before adding the extract which I did – a good idea. With my red ale, I definitely had scorching. I’d also taken the extract out of a fridge with the red ale, which is why I thought to warm it up. Malt Extract is incredibly thick and syrupy.
When it was fully dissolved, I put the heat back on and waited. And waited. It took a long time to boil and I am not entirely convinced I didn’t add the hops too early. The kit came with 1 oz of Willamette for the boil. and an ounce of Fuggles for the final. I did get a good hour boil out of it, rolling along with no boil over – the stove top was the way to go this time around!
Another change here – last time I brewed there was snow on the ground and I cooled the wort by sticking the kettle in a bank. This time I used two bags of ice to cool things down – it brought the temp down very fast and brought my water level very close to five gallons!
Instead of pouring the wort over from the kettle, I used my siphon this time (after a good vigorous stirring of the wort). Ten times easier. Starting out, the bottling tube was attached but I pulled it off after the first minute. It was very helpful in starting the siphon since it left a hand free, but the valve is quite sensitive so I still had to be careful. The siphoning was a huge success and my wort was much less debris filled than last time – this is simple stuff, and I’m sure any old brewers are rolling their eyes at me, but it’s all trial and error! It was nice to see the “cone” in the middle of the wort appear as the level fell.
Yeast was pitched dry. I actually proofed half the pack in warm water, but bread baking has taught me how forgiving yeast actually is, so I’m not too concerned. The wort may have been a shade too cool, but that’s far better than too warm. The challenge will be if it is warm enough in the basement to keep things bubbling well!
In a week or so, I’ll be transferring to a carboy for a secondary fermentation. This is another big change from last time. I still need to get a stopper for the carboy, but that won’t be hard.
I’ll probably edit this very post with pics later on.
The only worry I have is sanitation. But, cooking and baking has taught me that sanitation really isn’t that hard. I used my no-rinse solution for everything and was pretty careful. I’ll be sad if it doesn’t turn out, but I’m not too worried.
All in all, I think I’ve found a good technique on my second batch here, and I’ll do it this way when I brew again in a few months. I leave you with my wife’s thoughts on boiling indoors: “It smells like dog food.”