Something I’m not sure the blogworld knows about me yet is that Alex and I brew our own beer! Everyone in Denver homebrews it seems. Soon after Alex moved here, he bought the equipment and we’ve been brewing ever since.
We’ve brewed 5 different batches so far – a porter, a pale ale, a stout and a pale ale with orange & pomelo juice. Yum! It’s a lengthy process – usually 4+ weeks from start to drinkable finish – but the tasty beer at the end is worth it. And it’s especially cool to drink beer that WE made!
So far, Alex has been the master brewer and I’ve been the faithful assistant. This time, I wanted to be master brewer. So last week, we went to the beer store, The Brew Hut, to pick up supplies for the recipe I picked out. I decided to brew a Nut Brown Ale.
With Alex’s help, I picked out and measure the right amount of grains that the Nut Brown Ale called for – Toasted Barley, Chocolate Malt and Roast Barley.
I filled a brown paper bag with all 3 grains and then took it to the grinder.
Next, I picked up the malt extract, hops and yeast.
We are also out of sanitizing solution (very important for brewing!) and corn sugar (adds carbonation in phase 2 of brewing).
Last night was my brewing night! Brewing is done in two phases – creating the basis for the beer, then after 2 weeks of fermenting, the second phase is bottling and more fermenting. Each batch makes about 5 gallons of beer – usually 40+ bottles.
It typically takes about 4 hours for the first phase of brewing – to boil the grains and create the wort.
We have a giant stock pot, 5 gallons, that we use to brew. The thermos next to it is a full-sized thermos.
To start, I filled the pot with 3 gallons of water, brought it to 150* and then it’s grain time.
The grains steep for about 30 minutes before I removed the pot from the heat and removed the grain sock from the water. While removed from heat, it’s time to add the malt extract!
The liquid is now called WORT. As Alex says, the liquid has the potential to be beer but isn’t yet.
After adding the malt extract, it’s time to bring this wort to a boil and add the bittering hops. For my recipe, all 3 packets of hops were for bittering.
We use hops pellets but some brewers prefer the fresh hops, like you see in beer commercials. The Brew Hut sells both versions of hops. Whichever hops are used, they must be kept refrigerated so they don’t spoil!
Once the hops are added, the liquid boils for another 60 minutes and immediately after those 60 minutes, it’s a mad rush to bring the temperature of the liquid down from boiling to less than 70*. We have a very cool chiller that helps us do that – but unfortunately, it doesn’t quite fit on our faucet so it’s a bit of a challenge.
One of us holds the hose to the faucet (it should just screw on to connect but we have a janky faucet) and the other swirls the copper tubing around to cool the wort as quickly as possible.
Whew! We’re almost done!
Once the beer has been cooled, it’s very important from this point on that EVERYTHING touching the beer is sanitized. One little germ or Philly hair could contaminate the batch and render it undrinkable.
Sanitizing is simple – water + sanitizing solution! Then just add any equipment into the solution and presto! Sanitized.
Back to the beer – After the liquid is cooled, I racked the beer into the sanitized fermentation chamber. (This is Alex racking because he wouldn’t take a photo for me).
Once in the primary fermentation chamber, it’s time to pitch the yeast and wait till it hydrates and drops.
The yeast will get heavy and drop to the bottom. Then the lid goes on, I sanitized my thumb to cover the hole on top of the lid and shake the 5 gallon bucket for four LONG minutes. It’s an arm workout! (Making beer counts, right Nike?)
To ensure no air or contaminants get into the beer mixture, I put in the nifty little air lock. it lets the air created by the yeast out but doesn’t let anything in.
And now, we wait!
The beer will sit in this fermentation chamber for 2 weeks at 65* (ideally). Since we live in an apartment with central air, on the top floor, we don’t have too much control over the room temperature but we try to keep it as cool as we can. Someday, we’ll do this in a basement.
Taking charge of this batch of beer was an interesting change of roles – usually, I’m much more passive in the process, just helping when needed but I really enjoyed finding my own recipe, following the directions and putting my sweat and tears into this one. Though, not literally. #contamination
We’ll see if I still feel that way in 4 weeks after our first tastes of the Nut Brown Ale…