So, after putting this off for FAR too long, I finally had my first Homebrewing Adventure this weekend. I think it’s a great way to kick off American Craft Beer Week - though our beer won’t be ready to drink for several weeks. I got together with Mike and several friends (there were 6 of us in total) and finally took the plunge into brewing.
There was much online and on the phone consideration of the recipe – grain or extract? IPA or dark beer? How much? Where to get the stuff? In the end, Alex went to the local home brewing store (I’ll post the name once I find it out) and spoke at length to one of the people there. He came home with an EZ Brewing kit for an IPA – and lots of fun things.
Because of a math error (darn unit conversions!) we ended up not having a pot that was big enough to brew in. We considered buying one – but on short notice, a big pot is hard to find. While trying to find an answer to the pot problem, I then ignited a bit of controversy on twitter when I asked whether or not aluminum was a good choice for a brewpot (vs. stainless steel). I touched a nerve of what seems to be a roaring debate but I was happy that so many supportive online friends were there to give me their (strong) opinions.
After doing some last-minute phone searching with family and friends, Alex’s parents produced a 22 qt stainless steel stockpot that would be perfect for the job.
We spent time sanitizing everything and set up the pot on top of a turkey fryer propane burner outside. It was a gorgeous spring day, so it was nice to sit outside and watch the fire burning (plus, my friends kind of like fire, so it was a good excuse). Once we hit the boiling point, we all gathered around and each added an ingredient into the pot. The scene was fun – each of us taking turns to add what we were adding, hoping not to have to leap back from a boil over. It reminded me, too, of a video of a collaborative brew between Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head where they each put special ingredients into the brew – a truly collaborative process. We watched as the wort bubbled like witches brew and started to smell absolutely delicious.
When its time was through, we extinguished the flame and brought it carefully inside. With oven mitts and a bit of bravery, the wort was transferred into a large plastic fermenter, and water was added to cool it down. We left the dredges of stuff from the wort behind in the stainless steel pot, and after it had cooled enough, each sampled a spoonful of wort. Despite all the brewery tours I’ve been on, I’ve never had the opportunity to sample wort before, so this was a new and interesting thing for me to experience. It was immediately bitter from the hops – but that bitterness quickly was replaced by the super-sweetness of the unfermented wort. I thought it was delicious, though I wish I had taken a picture of everyone’s initial sour face!
After cooling enough so that the yeast wouldn’t face instant death upon being added, the yeast was activated and added, sealing the fate of all those delicious sugars just waiting to be turned into alcohol. Later that night, the fermenter was moved to its final resting place (the basement rec room) to work its magic. Now, the hard part is waiting…. it’ll be several weeks but I promise to post an update as soon as I can. Check out the gallery from our evening of brewing below.