On Brewing Beer

Every year around this time, I take a hard look at my learning list, a (usually lengthy) checklist of stuff I set out to accomplish during the year.

One of the things on my 2013 learning list was brewing beer, and I’m pleased to report that I managed to brew a whopping nine (well, 8.75) bottles of beer earlier in December (thanks in no small part to my neighbor joining me in this venture).

Brewing beer was something I’ve long wanted to do but long put off. I’d read a few books. Checked out some online resources. Picked up a lot of theory.

But I didn’t have any of the equipment I’d need. And then there was the issue of sanitizing. And, of course, fear and uncertainty. Excuses, excuses, excuses.

Finding Brewing Inspiration

So when I read about the home brewing kits from the Brooklyn Beer Shop, which are designed to include everything the aspiring home brewer would need to make a small batch of beer in a small (that is, Brooklyn-style) kitchen, it sounded like exactly what I needed to finally get started.

So I picked up one of their Everyday IPA kits, figuring that any beer designed to remain drinkable during a long boat ride from England to India (even though this was a myth) would be forgiving for the errors I would certainly be making.

The Process of Brewing Beer

So one day in late October, my neighbor and I got together in my small kitchen, cracked open our beer kits, and got to brewing beer.

In all, it took five hours from opening the kit to getting the liquid that would hopefully become beer into the fermentation jug. During that time I learned a few key things:

  • Sanitizing isn’t as bad as I’d feared.
  • It’s a challenge to keep the mash in the recommended range of 144°F to 152°F. Do your best.
  • After the boil, it takes a lot longer than you think to bring your gallon of wort down to 70°F so you can add the yeast. Have lots if ice.

I let the brew ferment an extra week (for a total of three weeks) mainly because of time — and because I needed to get some bottle caps and a bottle capper. I went to the local home brew shop.

The guy at the home brew store was a bit down on the success of brewing beer from an all-grain recipe (as opposed to his recommendation of a mix of grain and malt extract). So I left the shop, not only with bottle caps and capper, but pretty low expectations that my first attempt at brewing beer would produce anything drinkable.

[Note: That guy went out of business. Brooklyn Brew Shop is still in business. Draw your own conclusions.]

But I’d come this far, so with the help of my kids, got to bottling, which went very smoothly.

Sampling the Product (After Waiting)

Two weeks after bottling, I popped the cap off one of my bottles, took a cautious sip, and was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t suck.

Glass and bottle of beer.
The Bender IPA, first batch, ready for drinking.

Sure it wouldn’t win any awards, but it was plenty drinkable. I shared a few bottles with friends (for an unbiased second opinion), who confirmed that it was indeed drinkable. One if my regular beer-drinking buddies christened it “The Bender” IPA.

So as far as learning opportunities go, I’m marking this one down as a success. It was, however, a lot of work for 8.75 bottles of beer.

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