Friday, April 8, 2011

My first homebrew batch, Code: Frankenstein

My in-laws bought me a Maestro Homebrew Beer Equipment Kit for Christmas, and the ingredients for my first homebrew batch.  I've promised a write up of this, and it's long overdue, so here goes!

First, here's the equipment I used:

 Muntons Malt Extract, Dry, Amber , 3-Pound Bags (Pack of 2)

6-quart stockpot for the boil

B-Brite cleanser

Though the link shows two 3-lb bags of dry malt extract, I only used one 2-lb bag.

First off, all the books I've read are very clear on the importance of cleanliness - which makes total sense.  If you're going to be producing what is ultimately a living product, and letting it sit at room temperature in your home for several weeks before drinking it, you certainly don't want it infected by any bacterial nasties.  Everything that touches the brew (particularly after the boil) has to be sanitised - the cleanser B-Brite was included with my kit, and it seemed to work well.  However, it turns out this wasn't actually a sanitiser, and in order to properly sterilise your equipment you need to use a product like Iodophor Sanitizer for Brewing or Wine Making or Star-San.  This wasn't included with my homebrewing kit. 

I started off with a boil - mixing about a gallon of water with the can of liquid malt extract and the dried extract.  When you first add the ingredients, the mixture kind of foams up violently and you have to keep moving it away from the heat until it calms down.  Eventually it settled into a steady boil, and looked like this.

At this point my tiny kitchen smelled absolutely amazing - wort has this incredible and unique aroma which is really hard to describe.  It's a bit like oatmeal, or a rich fruitcake - makes sense when you consider it's made of basically the same stuff.

After boiling the wort for about 45 minutes, it was ready to go.  I'd added some cold water to my fermenting bucket, so I poured the mixture on top and topped up to the 5-gallon mark.  Then I sprinkled the yeast (which came with the liquid extract), let it sit on top of the bucket for 10 minutes, then stirred it in and firmly sealed the lid, adding an airlock.

About 2 weeks later I bottled it into 6 growlers and 12 500ml flipper bottles, mixing in the corn sugar to carbonate it, then very, very patiently waited until it had conditioned and aged perfectly...well, alright, maybe I had a couple of glasses before it was ready - patience may be a virtue but it's not a skill I've yet mastered.

Sadly I don't have pictures of the final product, but I can describe it as a dark, almost black ale with a medium body - it wasn't a stout by any means.  ABV was approximately 5-6% - I forgot to take an OG reading so I couldn't tell for certain.  It wasn't aggressively bitter, but had a pleasant caramel hint in the aftertaste which was extremely satisfying.  As it was my first experience of bottle-conditioning, I under-filled several bottles which resulted in insufficient carbonation and zero head, but the growlers turned out better as they had a 'fill to here' line that was pretty foolproof.  Overall, I was impressed by my handiwork - it goes to show that even beginners can make fine homebrews that compare very favourably with commercially prepared beers and ales.

Homebrew batch # 2 - a Belgian ale named The Muscles from Brussels - is due for bottling tomorrow and I'll have a write-up in a few weeks, once it's ready to drink.

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