Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Having been gifted by my lovely wife with a beer making kit for Christmas, I finally worked up the courage to brew. Well, not really courage...we had a move and it's tough to lug around a 60lb. jar o' beer. Never tried this before, so armed with instructions from Home Brew Mart and my new kit, off we went. Oops, should have checked this earlier... hydrometer is broken.

Off Mary goes to HBM to get another one. Second oops, I really don't need a hydrometer immediately. Oh well, she'll come back with a growler of Dopplebock from Ballast Point, so the trip won't be wasted.

Sterilize everything, get a couple gallons boiling in my 12qt stockpot, here we go. Turn off heat, dump 3lbs of malt extract into the pot. Ouch, boil over. Not only that, but the malt has congealed immediately into this thick, tar-like cap over the water, so break it apart and stir to mix, making even more mess. Add the remaining 3lbs and repeat the process, including the mess. Turn the heat on, bring back to vigorous boil as instructed, dang, another boil over, extinguishing my flame. Re-light, bring back to a boil, add hops, almost a third boil over.

Now the flame is caramelizing the malt extract all around my burner...this will be a bear to clean up. This is all so tragic, but I'm brewing beer, so all I can do is laugh my butt off at how hopeless I am. Mary arrives with the growler, and we pour us each a big glass and laugh again.

After an hour of boiling the wort, time to add the final hops and turn off the heat. Move the stockpot of wort to the sink, and bathe it in cold water while Mary pours a couple gallons of cold water into the glass carboy which will be home to our beer for the next week or two. Add the wort, top off with cold water. Now pour us another beer. Set the air lock on top, but not sure I'm doing this right? Does the plastic cap go over the top while the beer ferments, or is the cap over the glass tube all I need. Call our friend Ray Taylor, an experienced brewer, to ask a couple questions.

After trying to explain what the air lock looks like to Ray, we finally decide we've done it right. Now I'm explaining what the beer looks like to Ray. He asks "did it do anything when you added the yeast?" Yikes, I totally forgot about the yeast. Good thing we called, it might have been hours before we saw our mistake.

Ray tells me I've got to get the yeast distributed. Dang, that'll be one heavy bottle to pick up and shake. Ray says just tilt it on it's edge and swirl it. Doh! Guess we won't leave it on that stool. Set it on the floor, get a good swirl going, put the air lock back on, and then we're off to clean up.

Now, here's a couple things I'd do differently next time. If I can find a cheap, bigger pot, I'll get one. I'm a vigorous stirrer, and I think this will save us mess. Next, I sure won't dump a whole 3lb. bag of extract in all at once. Trying to stir was tough and another contributor to the whole mess. Adding slowly, stirring at the same time, probably is the call here.

Second day, beer looks good, bubbles coming up in the air lock, guess we're fermenting. I'll post tasting notes in a couple of weeks. Big thanks to Cy at Ballast Point/HBM and Ray for their tips, advice, and support. And Mary, for the kit, her love and support, and scraping all that crap off the stove top.


K. said...

Some of the best beer I've ever tasted (besides Hop Slam) was made by a local home brewer. His entire basement was a "brewery" of sorts. Geo and I were stunned at the quality he was getting out of his brew. Good luck with your endeavor!

Kim Adams

ray said...

Sounds like everything is turning out just great. If I make it down next month I'll bring down my 2 recent beers so we can A/B them.