So as of right now we are three batches into our beer production. The quick recap to get us up to date goes something like this…
Brewed this at the rents-in-laws place and this was the instruction batch. It was to be a clone of the Pacific Northwest beer Mac n Jacks. For those whom may not have ever tried this liquid gold, it is an African amber that you can only get locally up here and only on tap. So hopefully you can see the draw to brewing your own so that you don’t have to go out to a bar a lay down $5+ a pint. Brewing took place on a January afternoon and primary fermentation as well as secondary fermentation and bottling was done at an away field. The fermentation went smoothly and after about a week I was called back to rack the wort from its first container (a food grade 6 gal bucket) into its secondary fermentation receptacle (a glass 5 gal carboy, or water cooler bottle). This too went swimmingly and again I was called back in about a week to start bottling. The beer was bottled into 19 1liter bottles with rubber stoppers (think grolsh bottles). 12 of these bottles we kept and gave the rest to the beer instructor, Bob. Now came the hardest part, waiting to drink the beer. 3-4 weeks later we drank our first and it was a magical experience to say the least. Not quite Mac N Jacks but a highly “drinkable” beer as some may say. The taste was somewhere between Mac N Jacks and Red Hook ESB. Alas at the time of my writing this there are only 2 more liters in our fridge of this brew.
By this time I realized a few more things about the brewing process than I knew going into or even completing batch 1.
First I realized that I wanted to do more of this! Brewing my own beer was something I liked and it was a strange engaging mix of chemistry, biology, recipe calculation and playing with fire. If I wanted to do this at home I needed more equipment, because borrowing could only go so far and I would have to travel to make my brew.
Second I realized that if I wanted to start primarily drinking my own brew full time I would need to start another batch as soon as its predecessor was moving out of the tanks and into the bottles, if not sooner.
Lastly I realized that I needed control over all aspects of the brewing process. As I mentioned before this brewing process is somewhat like chemistry in that specific times, temperatures and ingredients are not just necessary but imperative to achieving desired results.
For batch 2 I decided to go for one of my all time favorite Mexican beers, Negra Modelo. I found a clone recipe that I though would work and headed north again to brew at the rents-in-laws with my brother in law (a first time brewer himself). Brewing went easy enough, however when it came time to start primary fermentation a bit too much water got added to the primary fermentation bucket so we wound up with about 2gal more than we should have. This was not realized unfortunately until it was time to transfer into the secondary fermentation receptacle. It is not my place to point fingers at the cause of this excess liquid as it could have been anyone of the three new brewers who were working that day, but the fact remains that this illustrated in my mind the need for me to do 100% of the process at my location. To accommodate this extra volume of liquid 1gal containers were purchased to supplement the carboy in secondary fermentation. At the time of writing this I have no idea how the beer is because it still needs another 1week minimum in the bottle before we can try it and find out if this extra volume affected the beer at all. I will keep this updated and let you all know when I find out this weekend.
I had finally gathered all the basic elements necessary for my own brew set up in my apartment! YEAH! FUCK YEAH! This accumulation of necessary elements was no easy task let me tell you. Perhaps the nicest part was that I had a birthday right in the middle of beginning to homebrew so the rents-in-law set me up with some of the more necessary things that I would not be able to get second hand from craigslist or e-bay. For this batch I decided to go with a recipe from my local homebrew place that happens to be just up the street. It is a Belgian Tirpel. A lighter colored Belgian ale characterized by a slight fruity finish and unusually high alcohol content.
Sanitized everything that I would be using so as to not let any wild yeasts into the beer.
I began by steeping the grain sack for about 15min in 150-160F water.
I added the malts, dry and liquid as well as the Belgian candy sugar to the wort pot (a 32quart stock pot originally designed for turkey frying)
Once a boil had been achieved I added the boiling hops and began timing for 1hour.
At 45 minutes I added my clarifier, a seaweed pellet and the flavoring hops.
At 55 minutes I added the finish hops and let it finish out the remainder of the 1 hour boil.
Cutting to the chase, I cooled liquid to 75-80F and pitched yeast.
Took my OG (original gravity) using a hydrometer and recorded it at 1.100. This is pretty freekin high, even for the beer I am trying to make. This is a reading you would get most likely from a barley wine and not a beer, but hey what the hell, just means I am going to have a pretty strong brew on my hands when its all said and done.
Tripel on top bubblin away Negra on bottom waiting to be consumed
As of me writing this the beer is still in its primary fermenter and most likely tomorrow (3-8) I will be transferring it to the carboy to finish out its time. Another hydrometer reading will be taken when racking and all I can hope for is that those billions of little yeasts in there have been busy converting all that sugar into good ol’ alcohol.