Sunday, February 28, 2010

Homebrewing - English Brown Ale

I tasted my first homebrew today. After traveling to the Brew and Grow on the north side of Chicago and picking up the two tubs, sealed lid, blow-off valve, sanitizer, cleanser, tubes, and bottle brush; I also picked up the Brewer's Best English Brown Ale beer kit. The ingredients were:

3.3 lb. Amber Liquid Malt Extract
2 lb Amber Dried Malt Extract

Specialty Grains:
8 oz Crystal 60L
4 oz Chocolate
6 oz Carapils Dextrine

1 oz Bittering
1 oz Flavoring
.25 oz Aroma

1 Sachet

The equipment is much more straightforward than I expected: 2 6gallon plastic buckets (2 x $9.95), 1 6-gallon plastic lid with hole for airlock ($5.95), 1 stopper for airlock($0.60), 1 airlock ($1), 1 section of 3 foot long plastic hose - (~$3), 1 container sanitizing concentrate, 1 container cleansing concentrate. I borrowed a 5 gallon pot from a friend, as well as a bottler, which I'm sure helped as the brewpots are like $40 for the cheap ones.

For sanitization, I dump a gallon of water into the bucket I'm going to use, dump in the cleanser (as this is an update several months after the original post, I have the benefit of hindsight, for those reading this chronologically I had this backwards at first - not recommended) and mix it up, was the inside of the lid (so I have something to put the other equipment on when it gets washed), set that aside, then wash and rinse the rest of the equipment, doing the bucket last. Then I do it again with the sanitizing solution, and let it all air dry. As the pot boils for an hour, I do not clean it.

I combined everything according to the ingredients and with the provided materials (for anyone looking to get into homebrewing, I'd highly recommend the Brewers Best kits). Once everything was set, I actually mis-read the instructions. I popped my first English Brown Ale after 7 days, and it was delicious. The ingredients hadn't fully mixed and melded with each other, and the chocolate flavor was a bit stronger than in the later bottles, and it was extremely good.

The rest of the bottles over the next week were more bitter - but those opened after two weeks were then very good again (though not as chocolaty).

My attempt at siphoning failed miserably, and I need to figure out a better way (ie, not just sucking it through the hose) to start it. That aspect of the sanitation definitely concerned me.