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Beer culture is coming of age. At any store, restaurant, bar, or friend's house you can now find at least a few good brews. In fact, there seem to be so many new beers, breweries and bars it's difficult to separate the good, the bad, and the mediocre.

If you're going spend $10 on one beer, what should you buy? If you're going to drive 2 hours to check out a brewery, what's worth your time? If you're going to plan a Friday night, what has a good selection and friendly atmosphere? We're here to help you answer these questions.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Home Brew Attempt #1

So this past weekend the Blog made their first attempt at home brewing. We're not exactly rookies, we brewed with Brew It Up for many, many years. But home brewing is a whole different beast. I had bought How to Brew by John Palmer which is a very good straightforward book for the beginner and novice.

We got our hands on a kettle that is a converted keg - top sheered off, industrial spigot, and lid; a big propane burner, and a big copper wort chiller. The rest of the supplies we bought at Brew Ferment Distill for about $215 dollars.

We all like IPAs so we found a simple IPA recipe on Beer Tools:
1 lbs Crystal 40; Great Western 
6 lbs Dry Extra Light Extract 
1 oz Simcoe® (Pellets, 13.00 %AA) 
1 oz Cascade (Pellets, 5.50 %AA)
1 oz Cascade (Pellets, 5.50 %AA)
1 oz Cascade (Pellets, 5.50 %AA) 
2 oz Cascade (Whole, 5.50 %AA) dry hop.
Yeast : Fermentis US-05 Safale US-05

However, we wanted to be a little different, so we purchase some New Zealand hops that BFD had in supply. Pacific Gem had a slightly higher 15% AA than Simcoe 13% , but it was close enough. We used Pacifica instead of Cascade which had the same AA, 5%.

They didn't have Dry Extra Light, just light, so we substituted there as well. We're not sure if there's a big difference there.

We knew the challenge was going to be keeping everything clean. We had both bleach and iodine. Our first mistake was filling the keg with the bleach and water and also putting the copper chiller in. Apparently bleach does not go well with aluminum or copper. We quickly realized our mistake and drained and rinsed it all. Instead we used the iodine for the kettle and chiller and the bleach for the fermenter bucket and equipment. This process took way too long. 

Finally we got going. Water in, brought up to a boil, turned off the heat, added extract, turned the heat back on, add the grains. We made the mistake of adding the grains when the water was way too hot, like 175 degrees. We turned the heat back off and soaked them for the rest of the time around 150 degrees. 

I believe we also made a mistake by either not stirring thoroughly or having the flame too high, because some caramelized (burnt) extract started floating in the wort. 

Well we finally removed the grains, brought it back up to a boil and began throwing in the hop bill. This went fine. Meanwhile we prepped the yeast in warm water.

We finished the hop bill. Through in the wort chiller and within 20 minutes the temp had dropped to below 70 degrees. We drained the wort through the reusable grain bag which we cleaned and sanitized in boiling water. The bag caught all the hop pellet crud and the burnt extract.

We through it in the fermenter, making sure we splashed it to add the oxygen the yeast needs. This is where we're not sure if we did the write thing. We boil a bunch of tap water to sanitize it - for both rinsing the equipment and for bringing the wort up to 5 gallons. However, at the end we didn't have enough boiled water - we only had enough to bring the wort to 4 gallons. We we used unboiled tap water to finish it off.

We then put the airlock on, using vodka as the liquid. We realized out first plan to keep the fermenter in our friend's separate room, it use to be a dark room that is separate from the house wouldn't work. The first day after fermenting the room got to 78 degrees. So we moved the fermenter to my house where we keep it slightly cooler - around 74 degrees. We're not sure how much this will affect it or not.

We also decided that a keg kettle is unnecessary at this early stage in our skill building. We will just buy a 4 gallon kettle. It'll be easier to clean and manage.

Well we had a few mistakes, hopefully none were totally devastating to the brew. Give us 4-6 weeks to find out!

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