When it came time to pick a beer to brew for my sixth batch I weighed my choices. My last batch was an IPA, so I wanted something maltier this time. As it was late August, I decided to go with a German Oktoberfest, just in time for October! I’m not actually a huge fan of most Oktoberfest beers, but I thought it would be fun to try it out. I purchased a Brewers Best German Oktoberfest kit from my local homebrew shop.
Upon opening the kit, I was fairly surprised to see that all of the ingredients were pretty common to other batches of brew I’ve already made. The kit includes 6.6 lb. Muntons Light Malt Extract, 8 oz. Crystal 60L, 4 oz. Crystal 20L, 1 oz. Willamette Bittering Hops, 1. oz. Vanguard Flavoring Hops, and Nottingham Yeast.
Ingredients and the Boil
The process went pretty well this time around. I added the grains to my brewpot at the same time as I turned the heat on, to give them a little extra time as the water heated up. The grains steeped from room temp all the way up to about 170 degrees over the course of about 30 minutes. Then I removed the grain bag, turned up the heat, and brought the liquid to a boil. As this was happening, I put both cans of LME in a pot with hot water to get them to flow out of the cans a little easier. Once the water was boiling, I added both cans – stirring as I added. I brought the liquid to a boil again and added my bittering hops. I let that go for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, then added the flavoring hops.
Usually I fill my sink with ice and cool the wort in an ice bath. As luck would have it, I badly clogged my sink earlier that afternoon, and couldn’t use it! I’d read that the hot wort could be added directly to the fermenting bucket, so I decided to try that out. I filled the fermenting bucket with 3 gallons of cold water first, then added the hot wort. It took a little bit, but eventually the mixture cooled off enough for the yeast to be added. This probably took a little longer than if I’d used the ice bath, but it wasn’t too bad. While the wort was cooling, I added the yeast to a glass of water to get it started. I also took this time to take a sample and measure my Original Gravity. I was sitting right about 1.054, right where the kit suggested I would be. Once the cooled wort came down below 90 degrees, I added in the started yeast, and put the lid on the fermenter.
I’d purchased a temperature regulator for my beer fridge just before starting this batch, so I was excited to be fermenting the Oktoberfest at a consistent, proper temperature. I set the regulator to about 65 degrees, so the beer would be fermenting right about 70. The guy at the homebrew store told me that fermenting beer will be about 5 degrees warmer than the air temp – which held true. I had intended to ferment for 14 days, but I got busy, and actually waited 22 days.
Bottling the Oktoberfest
This is where things got interesting… I’ve brewed several batches over the last few months, and I got a little cocky. I decided to start my next batch (a Russian Imperial Stout) the same night as I bottled my Oktoberfest. The brewpot takes an hour to boil, and that seemed like plenty of time to get my Oktoberfest out of the fermenter and in to bottles. Everything started out great. I got my Stout boiling. Then, I cracked open the fermenting bucket and measured my Final Gravity. It came to 1.012. Using a cool online calculator I found, that figures my beer to be about 5.5% alcohol. Next, I got my sanitized bottling bucket ready and started to siphon the beer from the fermenting bucket in to the bottling bucket. This is where the juggling began… I got the siphon started, then went to check my Stout. The siphon wasn’t deep enough and sucked air and stopped before the beer was all the way transferred. For the life of me, I could not get it to siphon again. For the sake of time, I decided to slowly pour the remaining beer in to the bottling bucket. I’d recently bought a new strainer, so I took this chance to filter out some of the extra hops that were still floating around in the fermenter. This actually worked out pretty well, as I was able to get that out to keep it from getting in the bottles.
I got all of my beer in to the bottling bucket, and started bottling. My stout had some time left to boil, and everything was still running semi-smoothly. I got 2 growlers and 12 bottles done, then realized I had made a huge mistake. I never added priming sugar! Ugh. I don’t know whether I could have just let it go or not, but decided to risk pouring the bottles back out and adding the sugar. I emptied the bottles back in to the fermenting bucket, even dropping one of my growlers IN TO the beer in the process. I got the priming sugar added to the bucket and slowly stirred it up a bit. Of course as this is happening, my stout was ready to be taken off the heat, too. I let it cool on the stove and started back on my bottling. I bottled about half of my bottles, and then put the wort in an ice bath in my sink. This bought me enough time to finish bottling the Oktoberfest. Of course I still hadn’t cleaned my fermenting bucket yet, so I had to take a few minutes to do that now too! Multi-tasking was a bad idea…
Final Results : Brewers Best German Oktoberfest
I cracked the first bottle open after a week. Still too sweet, but honestly not too darn bad. Even after all of my problems, the beer still had carbonation, and there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with it!
Week 2. The beer is better! Really, it’d be pretty fine to drink at this point.
Week 3 and on. As with every beer I’ve made, it just keeps getting better and better as it ages. The Oktoberfest is a pretty plain beer, but good. There isn’t as much character as you would find in a store bought Oktoberfest, though. I think if I made this kit again, I would make a few ingredient changes to liven it up a little. Maybe use more or a different type of hops, or use a different malt extract. I’ve read it’s common to use a Pilsner malt.
If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear them!