Looking up and down the long aisle of beer kits at my local homebrew shop, I weighed the pros and cons of each type of beer. My first batch of beer needed to be something I would enjoy, but it also needed to be something I could share with other people. I like darker beers, but other people like their lighter beers. I settled on a Brown Ale as a middle range compromise.
Most of my brewing supplies come from a one batch run about 8 years ago. I was in college, brewed a single batch, then lost interested (short attention span). I saved all of the buckets, hoses, etc., so I wanted to reuse as much of it as possible. My buckets were still in good shape, but some of the hoses were suspect. I decided to give them a try anyway.
Boiling, Cooling, & Fermenting
This first batch of beer is something I’ll remember for a long time. If there was a mistake to be made, I made it… really. I didn’t have a large brew pot, but I did have 2 smaller soup pots. I ended up trying to split the recipe between two pots on the stove – so I was managing 2, 2 gallon pots of boiling wort. 4 boilovers later, I made the decision to purchase a bigger pot for my next batch. I was brewing the English Brown during the winter, so I decided to cool my wort in the snow. Decent idea, but it was snowing and I didn’t have lids (2 pots remember). Aside from the snow falling into the liquid, I also ended up with a ton of snow stuck to the pot. I had a heck of a time getting it knocked back off to take the pot back inside – then I’m sure I was dripping snow water into my bucket when I added the wort to the clean water in my fermenting bucket. I eventually got both pots of cooled wort into my fermenter, which I then capped. It was at this point that I realized I hadn’t added the yeast yet. Kind of an issue. I cracked open one side of the bucket and poured the yeast in, then recapped the bucket. I swirled around the liquid a bit to try to get the yeast mixed in. So not only did I not activate the yeast before it was added, I also didn’t stir it. Amateur hour… My kit instructions suggested waiting a week in the fermenting bucket.
Bottling the Beer
I waited the week, cracked it open, and started the bottling process. I didn’t think ahead on how to get the siphon hose started, so I just immersed the entire sanitized hose into my fermented beer, then I put my thumb on the end of the hose and tossed it into my bottling bucket. Again, very sanitary… I mentioned earlier I was reusing old buckets and hoses. This is where it bit me. The old hoses had been stored with bends in them – unbending them meant making tiny cracks. I couldn’t keep the siphon going to save my life. I’m immersing the hose, sucking on the end to get it started. You name it, I was trying it. The crack was small enough that I could keep it rolling just enough to get through the process – slowly but surely. Again, very sanitary to put your mouth on the siphoning hose. I got through the actual bottling pretty smoothly. I used a mixture of regular 12oz bottles, grolsch style bottles, and even one growler as an experiment.
My kit suggested giving the beer a week to carbonate, then it would be okay to drink. Again, my first batch, that sounded fine to me! I cracked one open after a week, afraid that all of my hard work would be in vain after all of my sloppy procedure. The moment of truth… popped the top, poured the beer in to a glass… BUBBLES! I’d at least carbonated it right! Now the real moment of truth… I tasted the beer.. and it was pretty damn good. It had only been aged one long week, but it wasn’t half bad. Not the best beer ever, a little bit sweet, but tasty at least.
Final Results & Thoughts
With each passing week, the beer aged and came to taste better and better. Not only had I not failed, I’d actually pulled off a decent beer. Not all was well, though. The first batch turned out great! Longer aging resulted in better flavor, but ready to drink after 1 week in the bottle.
Overall: Great flavor. Possibly a little bit sweet. Also, alcohol content seemed low.
Next Batch: Weizenbeer – Wheat Beer