Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy brew year!

Or maybe that should be "Happy new beer"?

Tom's toyed with the idea of making his own beer for a long time, and thanks to my sister and my mom, he got a home-brewing kit for Christmas.  So, today was our first brewing day!

Fortunately, the kit came with everything--and I mean everything--you might need to get started, including a well-produced DVD with step-by-step instructions.  After watching that, we felt confident enough to get started.

So, first we had to empty the brewing grains into a mesh bag and steep them in warm water for 20 minutes.

Remove those, then bring the water to a boil and add a half-gallon (!) of malt syrup and a packet of dry malt.

Bring back to a boil, and boil for an hour, adding the hops as you go.  There were three different kinds of hops: one that went in at the beginning of the hour, one that went in fifteen minutes into the process, and one that went in 45 minutes in.

After the hour of boiling was up, the pot went into a cold-water bath to cool down.  Fortunately, I'd been defrosting the freezer, so there was lots of ice available for that.

Once the pot cooled down to room temperature, it was time to add the yeast. 

That's it.  We snapped on the lid, put in the valve that shows if fermentation is happening, and hauled the bucket off to the basement to do its magic.  Fingers crossed that we had the right temperature for the yeast to grow!

There were several other crucial steps involved, most of which involved sanitizing everything, including the bag of yeast itself and the scissors used to cut it open.  And something about using a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity of the mixture so that you can compare the initial reading with later readings to know when it's done fermenting.  Thank god the brewmaster here has a bachelor's degree in physics, because that's the point where my brain shut off.

Once the fermentation stops, it'll be time to bottle it, and then the beer needs to be bottle-conditioned for a couple of weeks.  But we should have our first batch in about a month!  So, expect more updates as the experiment continues.

Cheers to all our readers, and best wishes for a very happy 2012!

P. S. Many thanks to my former student Rebecca for the tip about Northern Brewer's idiot-proof kits and supplies. 


Pam said...

Can't wait to try it!

Rosemary said...

There should be plenty--the instructions recommend that we sterilize 56 bottles before distilling it!

Beth said...

Won't it be fun to toast your positive tenure decision with a home made brew?

Rosemary said...

Beth, I hadn't even thought about that possibility, but the timing might be just right! Great idea--provided both the decision and the beer turn out OK.

Jane said...

That is very scientific and DIY of you both. I predict that an obsession (with brewing) is about to ensue. How can a person not get hooked on such an interesting process?

Rosemary said...

Jane, I fear you may be right. Every time one of us goes down to the basement, we compulsively check to make sure the valve has bubbles in it. Happily, it has. Still, I'll leave the handling of the gravitometer or whatever it is to the expert.

Andrew said...

How interesting to find you! I stumbled here from a link at the Cake Wrecks site (the smoking lamb cakes), and how fortuitous as I am about to try brewing some beer myself. The friend who's anxious to get me started made it sound so simple-- somehow I knew it couldn't be as elementary as she was making it out to be. Your observations would seem to support this suspicion.

Rosemary said...

Andrew, it's not super-complicated, but it is time- and space-consuming. I can't recommend the Northern Brewer starter kit enough. At the very least, we've found the "Brewing 101" DVD that came with it invaluable, and it can be purchased separately from the kit for a mere $7.99.