And Then I Made Beer

Up to this point I’ve been a lot of places, I’ve eaten a lot of things, I’ve cooked a lot of things, but I haven’t actually brewed anything. But then, quite ironically, that last one changed.

In a series of escalating dares my buddy Theo and I have decided to try and make beer. I blame Oz and James for this. Their misadventures with drinks and making it all look so fashionable and fun has lead me down this road. In another strange twist, Theo and I share some similar hairstyles to Oz and James. Hmm, that could be fate stepping in.

Actually, I’ve wanted to make beer for quite some time and when I brought this up, Theo grabbed on to the idea and before I knew it we were in the beer supply store looking at large tankards, sizing up carboys and admiring plastic tubing and plastic buckets. The brewing center looks like a mad scientist’s lab and there are all sorts of bendy, twisty things to play with. I don’t know that I really need an Erlenmeyer Flask, but I want one!

It’s all fun and games when you’re sitting there making smart aleck comments about how hard could it be to make beer, but it become a different matter when you stand in the store looking at the barrage of bits and pieces. But I did gain some bearing when the sales guy said that if we could make Mac and Cheese we could make beer. Bold words considering I’ve never actually made Mac and Cheese. I’ve made Death Sausage mind you, but not Mac and Cheese.

But anyway, we proceeded headlong into buying goods, a whole trunk full as a matter of fact. We even bought a book on how to make beer, that shows how serious we are about this project! Before we got started though, we had to stop off and get a small sampling of Newcastle Brown Ale which is what we are shooting for with this first batch. It’s a dark beer so no one will question why it has floaty bits. And they won’t care if we burn it a little either. Actually, a tankard or two who cares what it tastes like right? I’m sure those monks of decades gone by weren’t trifled with little things like taste. They had bigger concerns!

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First, the beer. Our selection was a Nut Brown Ale. Seems like a good place to start and everything we needed was in the bag.

Like good citizens we cleaned and sanitized everything. Of course, is everything really sanitized if you have dogs running around in your kitchen?

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Then we made a big pot of what I thought smelled like sugary tea. Actually the grain mixture sitting in the cheesecloth looked like a huge tea bag. The smell was much more appealing than I thought.

 

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While it all cooked and simmered for an hour Theo and I tasted the Newcastle Ale. This makes the time go by faster. Our brew did come close to boiling over once or twice so there was a tense moment or two in the kitchen.

Then we had the long, slow cooling process. A sink full of ice really doesn’t do much to cool down scalding hot water. You’re supposed to cool this down as quickly as possible. The we did not have the quick part on our side.

But finally, the brew was cooked, strained and then transferred into the carboy. With the airlock in place I found a nice, safe place to store it for the next two weeks. Theo stood nervously thinking of all the things we did wrong. I have no doubt a few mistakes were made, but considering this is our first batch we already know it will be bad so we have no where to go but up.

The tense moments came as we waited for fermentation to begin. We started anxiously at the carboy waiting for the first signs. It took a couple of hours for things to get started, but then it took off like a shot. It was churning and bubbling and the airlock was percolating just like we wanted. It was a great relief to see a head of foam floating on the top.

 

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Now we wait two weeks and continue on the with the process. Soon we will need bottles and plenty of storage space. Might be a little too cold to hold all this in the garage, but I have no doubt we will come up with something.

On the whole I think it all went extremely well. In fact, it’s a hell of a lot easier than I imagined. If I were to change one thing it would be to get a wort chiller. That process took a lot longer than either of us were anticipating. I don’t know if it will have a negative impact, but as far as time and convenience I certainly plan to have one the next time we make a batch. I’m pretty happy with what we have so far. Of course we won’t know if it’s any good for at least another two weeks. More like a month until it’s really done but at least we’ll see if we’ve made something that doesn’t taste like old shoes or something.

It was a very interesting project and many things were learned. We already have a second recipe at the ready so we have to decide if we are brave and confident enough to make a second batch before tasting the first batch.

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