Brewing my own beer is something I’ve thought about doing for several years. Something about the mix of science, cooking and sharing the final product appealed to my inquisitive nature. But, it’s always something I’ve thought about, but not done. After watching an episode of Discovery’s Brewmasters series, I shot off an email to my Dad, asking if he still had his old brewing supplies—something we actually gave him as a Christmas gift years ago.
He brought what he had when he visited for Christmas and I wound up with a useable brew pot (big enough for a 2.5 gallon batch), bottling bucket, 5-gallon carboy, racking cane, capper and bottling tip. A friend suggested the book, Extreme Brewing by Sam Calagione, and with after reading through that, I had just enough knowledge to be dangerous. I began reading the HomeBrewTalk.com beginners forum and picked up plenty from there.
After a few weeks, I decided to go with the A-Z Brown Ale recipe (fromExtreme Brewing) for my first brew. I liked the idea of using a recipe, rather than an all-in-one kit. I thought I’d get a better idea of the process by seeing how all the ingredients combine. Using the excellent wish list/shopping cart at RebelBrewer.com, I picked out the equipment and ingredients I needed and dropped by their shop to pick everything up.
As I was getting ready for brew day (January 9), I realized I had forgotten to tell Rebel Brewer to crush my specialty grains for steeping pre-boil. After debating between food processor and blenders (methods I found on HomeBrewTalk.com), Jill recommended mashing it with a rolling pin. PERFECT! The grain was broken, but not pulverized and powdered. I was ready to go.
I now had all my ingredients laid out, measured/weighed and noted with times to add to the pot. I’d like to think everything went pretty smooth. I didn’t scorch my malt. It didn’t boilover and the pot kept a nice, rolling boil for the full 60-minutes. I could have used twice as much ice for cool down and a better thermometer. The candy thermometer I used started at 100, so cool down temps were gauged on where lower numbers should have fallen on the face.
I decided to do a half batch, rather than add water to bring it up to 5 gallons. My wort measured out to about 2-gallons, so I only had to add a half-gallon of water once I had the wort in the carboy. I used bottled water for everything. Our local water supply is very hard and high in PH. I pitched my yeast, popped in the airlock and covered the carboy with a black garbage bag to keep out any light—which could skunk the beer.
Three days later, I opened it up and added the maple syrup from the recipe. Everything smelled wonderful in the fermentor and looked a perfect dark brown/amber color. Suddenly waiting a month was going to be very hard. The extra sugar in the syrup kicked the yeast back into high gear and it’s bubbling away in the closet again at a comfortable 68 degrees.
It was extremely fun and I’m already planning my next two batches (and IPA and a summer brew). For now, I think I’ll stick to small 2.5 gallon batches. I don’t need an overabundance of beer and the small batched will let me try different things (and keep things cheaper).