First Batch

10 days ago we gathered around a large steaming pot in a backyard. The power was out from a fast moving thunderstorm an hour or so ago. Armed with thermometers, hydrometers, copper coils, vinyl tubing and a handful of books guiding us through the next few hours we started the recipe. Lining the pot with a bag, we stirred roasted and milled grains into the steaming water and left them steep for the first hour and a half. The resulting tea was then brought to a boil for the next hour adding green pellets at regular intervals. The boiling liquid was then cooled by dipping copper coils into the pot and running cold water through them. The cooled liquid was transferred from the pot to glass and a vile of beige paste added. By this time it was dark, the power eventually returned. A lid with a long vinyl tube and placed into a sanitizing solution created an airlock for the concoction. And then we waited. This was our first batch of home brew on it’s way to becoming beer.

Home brewing has been around for as long as beer. Like a lot of things it has really only been in the last couple of centuries or so that brewing started moving from homes into factories. And like a lot of things, mass production of beer resulted in consistent, efficient but also bland and boring products. But as already mentioned in a few previous posts, beer is seeing a revival started in the States but now quickly spreading north. Jim and I along with our friends Val and Rod, have been customers of a u-brew place for years, have been actively seeking out great ontario craft beers, and even went on a beercation to New York City at the end of last winter. Home brewing was something we’ve been talking about for a while, seeming a natural extension of our beer-education. (And a step closer to turning our running joke of a brewery-back-up-plan for the two academics into a reality if academic jobs don’t pan out).

The steps to home brewing are pretty straight forward. Below is a summary and some pictures of what we did. There are lots of resources out there to fill in the details, including the books Beer Craft that explains the steps to brewing really clearly and Radical Brewing that has amazing looking recipes.

Sanitation – it isn’t as much a single step as an ongoing process for the duration of the brewing and is critical for everything that the beer touches after the boil

Mash – this is soaking the malted and milled grains for at least an hour at warm temperature and is the first step to beer. We used the brew-in-a-bag method that is popular in Australia and cuts out the step of Sparging and some of the most expensive peices of home brewing equipment.

Boil – the mash is brought to a boil for an hour to concentrate the liquid and to add hops at at least 3 intervals for bitterness, flavour and aroma.

Cool – dropping the temperature serves a couple of purposes, settling out the sediment and making sure it isn’t too hot for the yeast. It is pretty easy to make a chiller DIY with stuff from a hardware store

Fermentation – once the future beer is cool enough adding yeast will start the fermentation. Since it will produce carbon dioxide creating an airlock lets gases out without contaminating the beer with natural yeasts or anything else that might make the batch go off

We’ll be bottling in the next few days. To get carbonation in the bottles, we’ll reactivate the yeast with a bit of sugar and wait another week.

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