Sunday, November 03, 2002

Gentleman Brewer

Well, the deed is done. My hopped and boiled pre-beer ("wort"), which wound up being a very well-dissolved amalgam of sugars from A) a malted-barley mixture (several specialty grains) that I "mashed" (soaked) in 155-degree water for 30 minutes, and then "sparged" or washed with 170-degree water for 15 more minutes, so as to activate and then extract all the sugars, and B) two cans of unhopped malt extract syrup (one "plain" and one "amber") for the easier but more bland bulk of the fermentables. The apartment smells like sugary bread is baking. :-) Mmmm.

Add the "bittering" hops for bitterness of taste, boil for 55 minutes, add the "finishing" hops for aromatic effects, steep for five more minutes, then crash-cool the boiling mixture to 100 degrees in a sinkful of ice water (for which I really need a bigger sink, and more ice), then add to chilled water in the 6.5-gallon fermenting bucket to finish out at around 80 degrees. Pitch in the yeast (activated beforehand in 2 cups of water boiled with a tablespoon of the plain extract, again crash-cooled to 80° F), and you're done.

Fermenting should be an interesting process. If all is well the bubble-airlock in the top of the fermenting bucket ought to begin bubbling (releasing CO2) sometime over the next 18 to 24 hours, and from there the process should get to the bottling stage (wherein the bouncing baby beer is naturally carbonated and allowed to mature) around this coming Friday or Saturday.

Give it two weeks or so, and with any luck I'll have some great home-brewed red ale to take home for Thanksgiving. (And before you ask, it's legal to take up to five gallons of beer [and I'm only making five] across state lines, so Thanksgiving won't be a problem.)

Heh. One or two things didn't go exactly as planned. For one, screwing the damn spigots into the holes drilled into the buckets was a chore, and they leaked at first despite their gasketing, but then I discovered that some flanges on the fitting allowed tightening with my big ol' wrench. Problem solved.

Handling the syrup really required a spatula. Since my 2-cup measure was activating the yeast, I wound up with no vessel suitable to pour sparging water through the grain, so I sanitized a small dessert bowl as a ladle and it did fine. I did have one small boilover because I was reading the recipe while the boil was just starting up. Not too big a mess, but still a pain.

As mentioned, cooling the wort was a PITA: I ran through my full icemaker, all my cold-packs and five sinkfuls of cool water. Still, from boiling to 100° in 25 minutes ain't too bad.

I am severely stoked. This has been a blast so far. :-)


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