The ancient Sumerians were probably the first people to record their beliefs in written word. They settled the Sumer region around 4000BCE and like every other polytheistic religion, they had patron gods for all the major parts of life: sky, sun, moon, stars and of course BEER. Scholars theorize that beer was in fact being made as long ago as 10,000 years ago and has only grown in popularity since.
Now Colin and I are taking part in this long lived tradition and it’s slowly taking over our life. Making beer is a bit like having another pet in the house. It needs to be fed, kept at the right temperature (not too warm or cool), and cleaned up after. And these beasties do make a mess!
Cleaning is how every batch of beer starts and ends. All equipment needs to be sanitized meticulously to be sure that foreign bacteria and yeasts don’t infect your brew. Colin and I have been using IO Star to clean our equipment but after a trip to the brewing store with our friend Paul Wheeler (The same lovely fellow with whom I went morel hunting.) we’re considering switching to Star San.
Paul informed us that Star San can be reused for months on end so long as it is still foamy when agitated. While we usually use the iodized water from sanitizing our carboy to them clean our other equipment in a bucket, using Star San, we could then siphon the water from the bucket into another carboy to sanitize weeks later.
The only downside to Star San is that when it is stored in plastic, the container will eventually get a slimy texture and Paul is not sure whether the plastic is dissolving or not so its better to store in glass or metal. For now, we’re still using IO Star because it’s what we have around.
The project we started on August 4th was the second kit that Colin and I purchased last month at MoreBeer! in Los Altos. I am in love with dark malty beers, beer so thick and rich you have to chew them as I like to say. So, while the Honeyweizen that we started with a few weeks ago is a great beer, I am much more excited about the second project: Chocolate Oatmeal Stout! Stout beers are characterized by their dark color and usually by a slightly higher alcohol content. Most stouts carry a coffee, chocolate or molasses flavor from the steeping grains and should have a creamy mouth feel. I added some unsweetened cocoa powder to my mash which will hopefully intensify that chocolate flavor.
This kit was a partial mash. What that means is that unlike our last project, part of our flavor and sugar came from whole grains rinsed in sparge water instead of from extracts and though the kit already contained some cocoa, I opted to add an extra ounce because I’m a total chocoholic.
Sparging is rinsing the mash(grains for sugar) slowly to extract the maximum sugar and flavor.
So, remember last time when we took for freakin’ ever to cool our wort? And we had to do it in a bathtub with 20lbs of ice? Yeah, we fixed that by getting a wort chiller. A wort chiller is a long hose with a copper coil that you set in your hot wort. One end of the hose is screwed onto the tap to run cold water directly through the liquid without diluting it. The other end lets the heated water run back into the sink. It had the happy side effect of roping the brewing boys off into a little corner of the kitchen where I could watch them from the table. Ah, to brew with a view. :]