The Brewing Begins

I’ve been wanting for a long time to brew my own beers. The house I lived in a few years ago was full of students and post grads, several of whom loved brewing beers and ciders (with mixed results). A friend of mine from the renfaire is also a homebrewer, though he’s much more serious about his craft than most of the hobby-brewers I know. Seeing his apartment full of everything brewing, stilling and steeping really got my juices flowing and last week Colin and I finally started our own project.

It took us a while to collect all the supplies: carboy, airlock, racking cane, siphon hose, blow-off tube, grain bag, giant pot, and giant whisk. Brewing takes a bit of an investment. Fortunately Colin is as enthused by the project as I am and he was happy to procure the necessary equipment for us. By the way, Smart and Final sells huge pots for a lot cheaper than any brewing store I’ve seen so far.

Our friend tipped us off to a big sale and brewing event at the MoreBeer! store in Los Altos and we headed down to see what we might learn there. It was very crowded, but the staff was helpful and the firt thing I grabbed was Brewing Classic Styles by Zainasheff and Palmer. The book came highly recommended and was helpful in choosing our first project. Originally we’d been told to choose something easy like an IPA, but becasue neither Colin nor I like IPAs, we started looking for something else. Among the book’s recommendations was to begin with an extract recipe or a partial mash recipe. The shop had a wide variety of interesting kits which included all the necessary ingredients for many different beers and were all rated by difficulty.

Honeyweizen

Colin falling asleep next to our brewing set up.

The batch we have underway now is a Honeyweizen made with grain extracts. The hardest part was honestly cooling thewort without a chiller. We started the project a lot later in the day than we intended and it took us til past midnight to cool our wort to an acceptable temperature for pitching the yeast. Next time we start before 8pm, okay?

Its a week later now and we took a gravity reading- a measure of the dissolved sugars/alcohol. (The wort had an OG: 1.053 and the sample we took at 7 days was at 1.016 for those who care) Fermentation is progressing well and its already pretty tastey. It has a little more of a banana flavor than I’d really like, which might be becasue the temperature is holding closer to 70°F than 68°F like we actually want it to. Reading into wheat beers we’ve found that lower temperatures are supposed to help prevent that, but since we have no cooling for either carboy alone of the room it is in, there’s nothing to be done about it.

Pitching the Yeast: We're almost done for the night!

Since its our first batch we’re not sure if it’ll need to go as long as the recipe calls for if we want a Finishing Gravity of 1.010, but we have a friend coming over on Thursday to take a look at it and help us with our second kit: a partial mash oatmeal stout.

Other projects in the near future are a peach beer, a blackberry melomel, Nocino(also known as walnut wine) and a Mandaricello already on the liquor. Look for an update on this project and others in my next entry. Cheers!

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