This instructable is going to walk you through the step by step process of making a Honey Blonde Ale homebrew. Obviously your key ingredient for this recipe is going to be your honey! For an experiment, I used 2 different carboys and used different honey for each one, Orange Blossom and Organic Honey (but you can choose to do only one).
Step 1: Get All Your Equipment and Ingredients Together.
In order to begin your first homebrew your going to need to have the following equipment:
- Kettle-preferably you would want one larger than 7 gal to avoid a boil over.
- Fermenter-there are several types of fermenters; plastic food grade buckets, better bottles, glass carboys. Any of these would work. Here I am using two 3-gallon Better Bottles.
- Air Lock w/ Plug- These go on top of your fermenters and are made to let CO2 out and keep oxygen from getting in.
- Water-Many people use RO water or pick up clean filtered water from a kiosk. If you are able to test the amount of chlorine in your tap water and make necessary adjustments then that will work too.
- Large Funnel with built in Strainer
- Thermometer- Glass or stainless steel work well.
- Hydrometer (optional)-Device used for measuring alcohol.
- Mixing Spoon
- PBW Cleaner
- Mesh Bag
- Irish Moss (optional)
- Yeasy Nutrient (optional)
12 lbs 2-Row Barley Malt
1/2 lb Honey Malt
1/2 lb Crystal 15L
3 lbs Honey!
5 grams Warrior Hops
Kolsh Yeast- WLP029
Step 2: Clean and Sanitize Everything!
Nothing is sanitized without first being cleaned. I recommend using PBW to clean all your equipment. I couldn't emphasize just how important sanitation is. You don't want any chance of getting an infection in your beer. You have to think your beer is sitting for 2 weeks while your yeast is eating away at those sugars. If you are not careful with sanitation, there is a chance that bacteria or other particles can get into your beer and this will create off flavors in your final product. I found that Star-San works the best for me. You can get both of these online or at your local wine/homebrew shop.
Step 3: Create a Yeast Starter (optional)
The main purpose of creating a yeast starter is to build up the cell count of your yeast so that when you go to pitch you have a better reaction with the beer. Typically you want the reaction to occur for at least 24 hours. If you don't want to wait do this the night before you brew. There are 2 different types of yeast-Dry Yeast and Liquid Yeast such as: Smack Packs, and White Labs. I always use white labs, just personal preference.
Step 1: Leave the yeast out for a few hours and let it get to room temperature.
Step 2: In a medium size pot mix together 2 cups of water with 1/2 cup of DME (dry malt extract).
Step 3: Bring to a boil and stir for 10 minutes.
Step 4: Immediately add to an ice bath and get it down to 70 degrees. (not pictured)
Step 5: Sanitize a growler, flask, mason jar, just something to keep it in overnight and if necessary a funnel.
Step 6: Pour the cool wort into your growler.
Step 7: Add the yeast.
Step 8 (optional): Add 1 teaspoon of yeast nutrient.
Step 9: Cover lightly with aluminum foil and let sit for 24 hours.
Step 4: Begin Making Your Wort
There are several different ways of making the wort for your home brew. I use a full boil method, brew with my grain in a bag, and steep in an additional gallon later on in the boil.
Begin heating 6 gallons of water in your large kettle. Your going to want to add all of your grain into a large cloth/mesh bag and tie it off. Once you get the temperature of the water to 155 degrees add your malt to the kettle. Your going to want to keep the temperature of the wort at 155° for an hour. My method for doing this is once I hit my targeted temperature I turn off my burner and wrap my kettle with a towel. I then check it every 10 minutes and reheat if necessary.
About 45 minutes through your boil your going to want to bring another gallon of water to a boil for you to steep your grains. This helps you extract even more flavor from all that malt, also it replaces all that water that evaporated and that your grain absorbed.
Step 5: Steeping Your Grain
After 60 minutes is up your going to want to remove the grain bag from your kettle. BE CAREFUL! It is very hot and very heavy! Because of my method I need to take my kettle off the stove in order to do this.
Pull the bag out of the pot and let it drain. After most the water is out your going to pour the additional water you boiled over as much of the grain as you can get to. This is what creates the steeping method. Afterwards your going to put your kettle back on the stove and bring your wort up to a rolling boil.
Step 6: Hop Addition
After your wort returns to a boil your going to begin your 60 minute hop addition. Your going to want to keep it at a rolling boil during this time. For a blonde ale the amount of hops is very minor and we will only be adding them at the 60 minute mark. (There are many other styles of beer that add hops at the 15, 10, 5 minute mark and even after flame out.)
Once your wort is at a rolling boil add your hops and start your timer. Here we added .5oz of Warrior hops at 60 minutes ( .5oz @ 60min) Now the countdown begins.
Make sure you keep an eye on the kettle occasionally stirring to avoid a boil over!
***(Optional/Recommended) Your going to want to add something to clarify your beer. There are a couple different ways to do this. You can use irish moss or whirlfloc-both available online or at your local homebrew shop. There are also several different ways to clarify your beer during fermentation if necessary or if you just forgot to add a clarifier to your boil. I use irish moss; however whirlfloc comes in tablets and is more convenient.
When using irish moss your going to want to hydrate it first. Add 1 teaspoon to a little bit of water. At the 15 minute mark your going to add it to your boil. In the third picture I show the Irish Moss being added at the 15min mark.
Step 7: Ice Bath
After your 60 minutes is up turn off your burner and get your kettle into an ice bath. I use my bathtub for this stage in the brewing process. There is no right or wrong way to do this, your just trying to get your wort down to 70°.
Fill a big container, bathtub, sink, or even a garbage can with water and ice and submerge your kettle. Your ice is going to melt and the water is going to get warm so be sure to rotate the water and add more ice.
Step 8: Add to Fermentors
Once you get your wort down to 70 degrees its safe to add to a fermentor. Make sure everything is sanitized and clean. Your fermentor, funnel, airlocks, everything!
Here I am using two separate 3 gallon better bottles so that I can experiment with different types of honey.
Step 9: Add Your Honey!
After cooling your wort it is now time to add your honey! One carboy I am using Orange Blossom Honey and in the other I am trying an Organic Honey I picked up at a local grocery store.
Step 10: Take Hydrometer Reading (optional)
The main purpose of a hydrometer reading is so you know the percentage of alcohol in your beer. It also helps to show if your specs are right and everything stayed on track. I use a brewing program called BeerSmith before every brew to help me stay efficient.
Step 11: Pitch Yeast and Aerate
Almost done guys! Its now time for you to pitch your yeast. Whether you've grown those cells with a yeast starter or are pouring it straight from the vial.
Aerating is optional and I would definitely recommend it! Don't let the oxygen tank throw you off, you can simply aerate your beer by picking up your carboy and shaking it for a minute or so. Make Sure You Have a Solid Grip!
Aeration helps your yeast begin growing during their lag phase. You want to make sure to do this as soon as your wort is cool, anything above 80 degrees can hurt your yeast and cause off flavors.
Step 12: Ferment
Now time to just sit back and wait! You can ferment your beer in a cold dark place generally around 66-70 degrees. Depending on where you live this could be your garage, or a hall closet, anywhere where it can stay at a steady temperature for 2 weeks.
I have a temperature controlled refrigerator I use to keep my beer at a set degree. For the Kolsh Yeast we are using I kept this batch at 68 degrees Fahrenheit or 20 degrees Celsius. Another recommended thing beginning brewers can do is get a medium sized bin and fill it with water. You can then set your carboy inside the bin and add a couple of frozen water bottles or ice packs to the bin and try and keep it around the desired temperature. With this method make sure you check on it regularly and replace the melted bottles with frozen ones.
While waiting for your beer to ferment check out your carboys! You will see little bubbles of carbon dioxide leaving the airlocks and your beer may foam up and/or begin to change colors.
Step 13: Cold Crash and Take Final Gravity Reading (optional)
After two weeks or as soon as fermentation has stopped (the timing between bubbles leaving your airlock is longer than 5 minutes) you can cold crash your beer(aka taking the temperature down to serving level). I unplug my fridge from my temp controller and reuse it as my own personal keggerator! You can add ice to your fermentation bin or throw your carboy in a refrigerator.
This is the point in the brewing process where you want to take your final gravity reading. Once you know this number you can do the math (or put it into a brewing calculator) and come up with the proper alcohol percentage. Here mine came out lower than I anticipated at 6% ABV.
Step 14: Keg or Bottle It!
Obviously not everybody has kegs they can just throw their homebrew into. I find them to be much easier and a lot cleaner. There are a couple ways you can bottle off your beer:
First you want to get your carboy elevated and let it sit for 15 minutes so the debris back down to the bottom. You then want to use a siphon to get the beer out of the carboy. Try to avoid touching your siphon hose to the bottom of your carboy to avoid getting any extra debris/particles into your final product. Picture siphoning your beer as a thief would siphon the gas outta a car(we've all seen it in movies). You must begin suctioning the beer out of the free end of the hose, gravity will do the rest from there. Try to purchase a bottle filler, it makes this process much easier seeing as you can just fill each bottle individually. In order for you to get the carbonation effect you need to add corn sugar to each bottle. They sell big bags of it, but your best bet is to buy pre-measured tablets and just add 1 to each bottle. You can now cap off your beer! Make sure you have a bottle capper and some caps to do this. You then have to wait an additional 2-3 weeks for the yeast to react with the sugar and create carbonation.
For kegging the process is more of a breeze. Just siphon your beer into your kegs and cap them off. I then purge out all the oxygen from my keg and pump in 30 pounds of CO2 into my pin lock keg. For a quicker reaction I roll my keg on the floor for about 5 minutes. After 24 hours I drop the pressure down to 12 psi and let it sit another day. It is then ready to serve!
Step 15: Save That Yeast! (optional)
After I have finished kegging off my homebrew I begin to clean up my equipment. There is still a slurry of yeast built up at the bottom of my carboys that is still good. Instead of just pouring out that nasty yeast cake I go ahead and sanitize a mason jar and dump that slurry into it for a future brew! It saves you money and the yeast is even healthier than its first use. It shouldn't even need to be built up with a starter next time you go to use it. (However it is recommended)
Step 16: Have Fun and Enjoy!!
Now that your beer is kegged or bottled, have some fun! Give your beer a name or create a label for yourself! Last but not least---Enjoy, you've earned it! Homebrewing can be a fun and tasteful hobby! It is one of the fastest growing hobbies in the US. I hope this instructable helped you throughout the brewing process whether your a beginning brewer or a brew master!