After attending my first homebrew party (the little things we do in the Midwest), I decided that brewing my own beer would be a great project for me to attempt. After a trip to a local home-brewers shop, and purchasing a Brew Cube (mini-brewing kit – 2 gallons), I was ready to begin the process. I was sad to have to wait for the weekend but figured I would need an entire day to make sure I did things right.
Step 1: The Morning Of...
First and foremost, I decided I must be clear minded and alert for the task ahead. I decided a fresh pot of French Pressed coffee was needed as I read through the instructions. Always read the instructions!
Step 2: Assembling the Team
After deciding I was comfortable with all of the steps, I assembled my team of supplies and prepared for the task at hand. Being it was my first venture into the world of homebrewing beer, I followed the directions closely... if almost to a degree of uncomfortable exactness.
Here's all of the gear plus a few closer pics so you know exactly what I am referring to when explaining.
Mesh netting for the grain, bucket and airlock, tubing of various lengths, grain, bottles, brew pot and spoon, floating thermometer, whirlfloc, hops, yeast, cleanser, corn sugar, instructions, coffee, good old Apple Juice (dependable but aged, Macbook) for when I get in trouble.
Step 3: Sanitize - Sanitize - Sanitize
After scrubbing each and every component, some not even being used on day one, I began the process by boiling 4 quarts of drinking water to a temperature of 164 degrees. (10 degrees higher than my mash temp. The idea is to bring the mixture 10 degrees hotter than the end temp so the final temp will be spot on at the end of the steep.) It's important to use drinking or spring water and not distilled water. You should also refrain from using tap water.
Step 4: Adding the Grain
Once my brew pot was to the proper temp, I added the grain to the mesh bag and into the pot. After carefully soaking the entire bag and mixing the grains inside to ensure a full soak, I put the lid on and waited 10 minutes. I checked the temp and found that my brew temp was a bit lower than intended. I gave it a bit more juice from the stove, killed the heat, and put the lid on the pot.
Step 5: Straining for Gold
After 50 additional minutes of steeping the grain bag, I pulled the bag and placed it in the strainer on top of the brew pot. I had previously brought an additional 4 quarts of water to a boil, which I would later use to pour over the grain bag and into the pot. This will help extract the delicious concentrate from the middle of my grain bag.
Unfortunately, my strainer broke in the process, leaving me with a sunken strainer in my brew pot. I am thankful at this point that I took the time to sanitize my back-up strainer at the beginning of the brew. I continued the process of adding the additional water to the boil. (I rewarded myself for properly handling the situation with a beer. I deserved a little joy after my first hiccup in production.) I used my wooden spoon to lightly tamp the excess water from the bag and disposed of the grain properly.
Step 6: Adding the Hops
I brought the brew pot to a slow boil and added the first of 3 hop blends. First at 30 minutes (0.8 ounces), one at 5 minutes (0.4 ounces), and the last (0.2 ounces) right before I removed the mix from the stove top. did I mention this was a whiskey-soaked APA? At the 10 minute mark, I added my Whirlfloc tablet. Whirlfloc is a great substitute for Irish Moss.
Step 7: Cool Down, Bro!
At this point, it is important to bring the mix to a temp of 65-70 degrees. This allows for proper transfer into the fermentation bucket. Thanks goes to my buddy, who reminded me that we had snow on the ground. I was able to skip the ice bath in the sink and place the brew pot into a mound of freshly shoveled snow. I checked the temp for the next few hours and shoveled new snow around the brew pot as needed.
I had to wait a few hours for the temp to reach 70 degrees and I enjoyed a few tasty beers during this point. Pics did not turn out well.
Step 8: It's Like Baking a Cake - Only It's Beer
It was now time to start the fermentation process. I poured the wort (stuff in brew pot) into my sanitized fermentation bucket and added 2 tsp of yeast to the mix.
I then secured the mix by lidding the bucket and placing an airlock on top. This allows for CO2 to escape and prevent air from getting in.
Step 9: WAITING!!!
I had to find a cool location to store the brew for 10 days. I couldn't think of a cooler location than behind Melvin. Not only will Melvin intimidate any would-be attackers of my first-batch of brew, but he also looks pretty damn good doing it.
Long story short, this was the most rewarding project I have worked on in a long time. The worst part of the entire process was waiting for things to brew and cool. The process was beautiful and enjoyable.
Wait 10 days!
Step 10: Killing the Yeast - the Battle
Calling this a battle is not the proper phrase to use. I removed the airlock from the fermentation bucket and sealed the hole with a small piece of packing tape. I then put the bucket in the refrigerator to slow the yeast activity. I need the mix to flocculate and clear the mixture. Killing the yeast allows the mixture and solids to settle in the bottom of the fermentation bucket.
Step 11: Bottling - (Hell)
I removed the fermenting bucket from the fridge and prepared to bottle the brew. I made sure to sanitize my tubing, bottles and caps to ensure the final product would be as clean as possible. I also poured a bit of sanitizer into the bucket spigot, just to make sure it was clean.
I added a half tsp of corn sugar into each bottle (more on that later) and began the bottle process.
With the tubing attached to the spigot and bottling wand, I opened the spigot and let some beer flow freely into a cup. Why waste a bit of beer? Well, I want to make sure the sanitizer does not make it into a bottle of beer. I am willing to lose a bit of beer to ensure all bottles come out perfect.
I began filling bottles and did so as full as I could possibly get them. Less air = less issues with the final product. After filling a bottle, I immediately screwed the lid on and gave it a quick shake to mike the corn sugar and beer.
The corn sugar will reactivate any remaining yeast and carbonate the bottle. This is a great way to save some cash as purchasing a carbonation unit is a bit over budget for mix 1. Once all of the bottles were filled, I rinse them off and placed them in a warm place. Melvin seems warm enough for this task.
Wait 2 weeks. This allows the bottles to carbonate and settle properly.
Step 12: The First Tasting.
Day 24 - I ended up with 7.5 bottles of beer (pint a piece). It does not seem like enough but for a first batch, but I will treasure each bottle like it was a child - probably more than a child.
Although it is an American Pale Ale, the APA in the name stands for Awesome Pony Adventure. My initial hope was that this beer would take you on a journey to Deliciousville. The only way into this magical land would be on the back of a white pony named Sir Richard William Shireworth. (I've consumed 3 bottles while writing this, Sorry.)