October 31, 2013

my first home brew: brown ale via brooklyn brew shop kit

A month later and I have my first home-brewed beer. It was a simple and straightforward process thanks to the Brooklyn Brew Shop beer kit! I used their Chestnut Brown Ale and ended up with a nice brown ale sans the chestnuts (I didn't use any chestnuts). Read on to go through the fermenting process with me, or check out the haphazardly snapped photos to get an idea of it...

The written directions for making the wort are very clear (more detailed than their video) on the BBS website, but what helped me tremendously was reading this book, recommended by my cousin, an avid five gallon home brewer. The book goes through the step-by-step process, and it also educates you on the science of what's happening as you brew as well as some good tips of what you want to avoid. A good read in my opinion, and one that helped me understand making wort. Once I made the wort, into the carboy everything went. After that, I imagined gunk or bubbles forming within a few minutes, but it didn't. I got nervous because nothing was going on (it also didn't help that I thought the temperature of the wort was a little too cool to activate the yeast). I'm not sure why I thought it would be similar to bread making-- activate the yeast and a few minutes later it's ugly and funky looking. After watching and obsessing, I decided to walk away and see if it would do it's "thing". Sure enough, the next morning I awoke to lots of fermenting action-- bubbles, bubbles, and more bubbles. Yes! My beer was fermenting! The rapid bubbling continued for a good 12-24 hours (depending on when it started in the middle of the night). After the rapid bubbling subsided, the trub formed at the bottom of the carboy and tiny bubbles continued at the top. I let it ferment two weeks in the carboy before bottling, then had them sit in their bottles for another two weeks before throwing my first home-brewed beer party.

A few tips on the kit, it doesn't come with everything you need to brew, but the things left out are items you'd probably have in your home kitchen: large sized mesh strainer, a funnel, a few large sized pots (at least 8-10 quarts), and a large container for the sanitizer, like a bucket. Once you're ready to bottle, you'll also need a bottle capper, bottle caps, and some empty beer bottles. All of these can be purchased off the BBS website, but I took a trip over to the local brew supply shop and picked up the bottle caps and capper, along with a large size funnel (for the brewing part), and some extra sanitizer just in case. I was happy to support a local business, but not only that the items were more inexpensive, I got them immediately, and didn't have to pay for shipping. It was also fun to chat with the owner and employees about beer, and as a brand new brewer, ask them any questions or concerns I had about the process. For bottles, I collected and used empty ones instead of purchasing them new.

Overall, the process was fun, I learned a lot, and the outcome felt rewarding. Takeaways from the experience: 1) Most important thing in the process is to sanitize everything. 2) Have fun!

Perhaps there will be a blonde or amber ale in my next carboy?

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