Last Thursday I dropped by Austin Homebrew Supply
to purchase a beer making equipment kit. The only required items that weren't included in the kit were the bottles and a stainless steel stock pot. AHS was out of the cheaper stock pots so my brother Josef said he would lend me his. For the bottles, I originally decided to use the green Dos Equis lager bottles. Unfortunately I'm not drinking them fast enough so I'm just collecting any non-twist-off bottle for now. Perhaps by my second batch of beer I will have a homogeneous set of bottles to use.
In addition to the equipment, I bought the ingredients to make a beer in the style of Pete's Wicked Ale
. AHS has a list of some 700 different recipes to choose from and they print up a nifty instruction sheet/ingredient list for the beer you choose to brew. If all goes well, I should be enjoying my own Ike's Wicked Ale in around five weeks.Ingredients used
½ lb. Vienna malt
½ lb. Crystal 60L
¼ lb. Chocolate malt
6 lb. light dry malt extract (or 7 ½ lb. liquid pale malt extract)
1 oz. Brewers Gold bittering hops
½ oz. East Kent Golding flavor hops (I'm using slightly more than ½ oz.)
White Labs British Ale Yeast #WLP005 (or Wyeast London 1028 #00032 or Dry Yeast Windsor #00393)Putting it all together
The first step was letting the yeast warm up to room temperature. I removed it from the refridgerator Saturday evening so it would be ready on Sunday afternoon. The vial label says 3-6 hours is fine but my local brew store recommended up to 24 hours.
Then I had to sanitize all of the equipment. Once the wort is boiled, it contains a lot of sugar and is susceptible to bacteria growth which can ruin the beer. I opted to clean everything with a diluted bleach solution.
Next I warmed up 2 ½ gallons of water to 155°F and turned off the stove burner. I steeped all of the crushed grains in the water for fifteen minutes, lifting the grain bag in and out of the water. After doing this the water was fairly dark, as seen in the picture.
Once the water returned to a boil, I turned off the burner to add in the malt extract. The extract is very sticky and the steam from the water made it clump up some as I poured it from the bag. It readily disolved in the hot water with continuous stirring during pour. Now I turned on the heat and got the wort to a steady boil. Wort is the name for the mixture of the grains and water and sugars.
Once I had a nice rolling boil without boiling over, I added the Brewers Gold hops seen here for bittering and set my timer for 45 minutes. When the timer went off, I added the East Kent Golding hops for flavoring and reset the timer to 15 minutes.
The next step was to quickly cool down the wort to 80°F. I filled up my sink with cold tap water and ice, and then carried the hot stock pot over and set it in the water. The recipe says this process should ideally take 15-20 minutes, but my wort was still too warm after that period of time. Once it dropped to a little over 90°F, I poured the wort into the plastic primary fermenter.
Using my trusty Wurstfest pitcher, I added enough cool tap water to fill the primary fermenter to 5 ¼ gallons. I had previously marked the spot on the side of the bucket to make this easier.
Now it was time to measure the specific gravity of the wort using my hydrometer. It was kind of difficult to read an exact measurement because of the bubbles, but I would say that it ended up being 1.053, plus or minus one thousandth. I was pretty happy with this because it was exactly what the recipe said it should be. This is one of the measurements used to calculate the alcohol content of the beer. I have to take a second reading right before bottling and then I can determine how potent the beer will be.
The last step of the day was adding the yeast. I shook the vial vigorously to mix the yeast up, and then poured it into the fermenter. After several good stirs of the wort to mix it all up, I placed the top securely on the primary fermenter and put some water into the airlock. The top was pretty stuburn and I wasn't sure if I got it all sealed correctly, but when I checked on it Monday morning, the carbon dioxide was escaping through the airlock so it was a success.Notes
- The floating thermometer is too tall for the pot I used so it would rest on the metal bottom unless I held it. I plan on making a contraption to hold it upright and suspended in the liquid.
- Adding the dry malt extract is cumbersome for one person to do because you have to continuously stir the pot so the malt disolves. I wasn't really expecting to do all this myself, but I couldn't wake up my lovely brewer's assistant from her afternoon nap.
- A large measuring cup would be cool to have. I ended up using a quart water bottle to determine how large my Wurstfest beer pitcher was – two quarts. Then I used the pitcher for measuring 2 ½ gallons for the stock pot and the 5 ¼ gallons level on the primary fermenter.
- Chilling the wort took longer than I expected. You can purchase a wort chiller to speed up this process, but I'm not sure if I will get one just yet.