Sunday, January 31, 2010

Homebrewing Beer I: Amber Waves

Kim bought me a beer homebrewing kit for Christmas this year and after a hectic holiday season I finally found the time on January 8 to get start brewing. The beer kit was for a hoppy, medium bodied, low alcohol amber ale, Kim bought from Home Sweet Homebrew on 2008 Sansom Street. The kit is made from extract, meaning one uses a malt syrup instead of actual grain, which makes for easier first time brewing--where all you have to do is melt and boil the syrup in the water.
I neglected to plan ahead and realized that I need to sterilize by boiling about 5 gallons of water first and start a yeast culture for brewing the beer, so it set me back a day. But the next day, with football on, I started brewing some beer. In a two gallon stock pot, I brought 1.5 gallons of water to a boil, stirred in the malt extract, and brought it up to a boil. I added some hops for bitterness. At this point, the wort (the liquid that turns into beer after fermentation) needs to be boiled vigorously for 60-90 minutes. After the wort finished cooking, I cooled it in a bath of ice water before pouring it into the bucket with about 3 gallons of water. Then I added the yeast starter culture, sealed the lid and waited for magic.

It took about a day for the yeast to start working, but when it did, CO2 bubbles came out of the airlock once every minute and the krausen (foam from the fermenting wort) rose up about 4 inches from the top of the liquid level. After two days when the yeast start to slow down, the beer gets transferred to a glass carboy for further fermentation. I let this go for about ten more days before bottling.

After a week from the beginning of fermentation, when the beer wasn't bubbling anymore and most of the sugar was turned into alcohol, I siphoned the beer into the bottling bucket and get ready to start filling bottles. I'd been saving bottles since Christmas and after taking off the labels, I run them through the dishwasher on the hottest water setting and dried them. In order to carbonate the beer, you have to add a little extra food for the yeast to consume while in the bottle to make bubbles. So, I dissolved dextrose (corn sugar) in a pint of water and boiled to sterilize it, then poured it into the beer. I mixed this all up, filled the clean bottles with the beer, capped them and waited.

The instructions said to wait 7-10 days after bottle to try, so naturally I waited 6 days and popped one. The cap came off with a satisfying hiss and it was good.

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