Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Home-brewing New Year Cheer!

Happy New Year!  I hope everyone has recovered from the revelry of last night and is ready to take on 2013!

Personally, I am not big on resolutions.  I used to resolve to lose weight, exercise more, save money... but then life always happened and something would go horribly wrong.  And since I hate to fail at anything (a sad but very true character flaw!), I have stopped making resolutions.  Oddly enough, this works quite well for me.  I finished 2012 seventeen pounds lighter than I started it, and I achieved some personal goals of traveling to Switzerland and playing more tennis.  A LOT more tennis. This year, I hope to keep up the good work.  More traveling, more healthy living, and more balance of work/life.

That said... I do believe I promised you some home-brew fun on the last post, and I am ready to deliver!  One of Mike's DIY hobbies is brewing his own beer.  This started when his sister, Beth, and her family provided him with the Mr. Beer home-brew kit for Christmas in 2011.  He brewed his first batch of beer from the prepackaged kit (it included a can of wort and instructions) and it was HORRIBLE.  Mike is not a quitter, and so he decided there were some things about the kit that he thought he could do better... and it snowballed from there!  He is now set up to brew one 5-gallon batch at a time, but he has a larger brew pot on the way, so he will be able to increase that to a 10-13 gallon batch.

Right now, we have a Bee Cave IPA that just (and I mean JUST) got bottled, and a blackberry ale that is in the fermenter.  I like fruit in my beers, and last year Mike made me a raspberry ale that is a clone of the Ruby that they make at McMenamins.  So yummy!  So in the summer, we went blackberry picking and froze them, and that is what he has used in this batch of blackberry ale.  I am very excited to try this beer... the color is fantastic!

Currently, Mike brews his beer in the kitchen.  I have recruited him to help me with this post, since I am not as familiar with the process and the language of brewing as he is.

This is the mash tun.  It is used to extract the sugars from the malted barley.  Did you know that the malted barley smells just like Malt-o-Meal?  I grew up eating malt-o-meal, so whenever Mike brews, my stomach growls.

Mike is adding extra water to the grains to get the desired recipe volume.  Mike is using the strainer to slow the flow of the water so that it does not disturb the grain bed, which acts as a filter.

The wort is being filtered by the grain bed in the mash tun.  It drains into a food-grade plastic bucket.


These are the spent grains in the mash tun.  The sugar has already been extracted and is ready to be turned into beer.  Currently, we throw the spent grains away.  Some breweries, like Full Sail in Hood River, give their spent grains to farmers to feed the cattle.  Talk about happy cows. 

These are the blackberries that Mike added to the blackberry ale.  He heated them to sanitize them, then strained the fruit so only the juice was added to the boil.  This removed all skins, stems, and other organic matter.

This is the boil.  The boil is currently done in a turkey fryer in the garage.  My parking spot, I might add.  The bag tied to the handle contains the hops.  When the boil is finished, the beer is cooled and put into food-grade plastic buckets.  The yeast is added, and the bucket is sealed for fermentation.

After fermentation, Mike opened the bucket to dry hop the beer. 

Mike is racking the beer to dry hop it.  This moves the beer from one bucket to another, effectively removing the yeast cake from the bottom of the bucket.

The hops are in a mesh bag in the new bucket.  The next few photos show the dry hopping process in more detail.


That is me standing on the chair.  Any excuse to stand on the furniture.

The beer on the left is the blackberry ale.  The one on the right, being dry hopped, is the Bee Cave IPA.

Mike is taking a hydrometer reading to test the alcohol content of the beer.  The Bee Cave IPA is right about 6.5% right now.

This is me, sanitizing bottles for the bottling process.  We reuse bottles and caps, so the sanitation process is very important.

Mike is racking the beer off the yeast cake into the bottling bucket.

Liquid gold, soon to be bottled!

The sugar has been added to the bottling bucket.  This will start the carbonation process once the beer is bottled.  The yeast still left in the beer will go back to work, eating the sugar and causing carbonation.  This process will also cause the beer to become more clear.

Bottling


Mike makes sure to leave room in the top of the bottle for the carbonation process.  He does not seem excited about the prospect of blowing the bottle top off from too much carbonation and not enough room.

Once the yeast is done with it's final job, this bottle of beer will be more clear and ready to drink!  This process takes one to two weeks for this type of beer.  Some beers need to sit much longer.  Barley wines and other higher gravity beers can take months.

So... that is the home-brew adventure!  This particular batch was bottled in 16 oz and 12 oz bottles.  It is the equivalent of fifty-three 12 oz bottles of beer, or just over 2 cases.  The blackberry ale will make a little more, maybe two and a half cases.

If you have questions about the process, recipes, anything... just drop a comment and I will get a Q&A going with Mike.

Happy New Year!