Category Archives: Getting Started

First Brew is complete. Fingers crossed that it doesn’t suck.

It took us way too long (4 hours start to finish) – but we got it done. Five gallons of amber liquid are safely tucked away in their fermenter with a bunch of happy yeast. In about a month, we should have bottles of hoppy Pale Ale.

Steeping the grains for pale ale.

Steeping the grains. Waiting…and waiting…and waiting for boil.

The night’s challenges:

1. Boiling water. We recognize that it may seem totally stupid that this is an issue, but it was. Using a 20 quart stainless steel stock pot, we brought about 3.5 gallons to a boil. It took forever – 45 minutes.  Some of this could be my gas range, but a little reading on the subject suggests that this is pretty common when using standard kitchen stoves. Next time, we’re going to use a stand-alone propane burner that Keith can steal from his mother-in-law.

2. How much is five gallons?  We siphoned the wort out of the brew kettle into our glass carboy. Then we were supposed to add clean water until it reached 5 gallons. Except we didn’t know how high five gallons was on he carboy. Yeah, yeah – it’s a five gallon carboy, so does that mean fill it all the way to the top, mostly to the top, etc?  Anyway, we poured the beer into a sanitized 6.5 gallon bucket that had measurement marks on the side, added the water, then siphoned it back into the carboy. Problem solved. Remember – we’re english majors, not math or physics majors. This was a high point.

3. Stupid hydrometer readings. When measuring the specific gravity of your beer, you use an instrument called a hydrometer. According to the book, you’re supposed to remove beer from the carboy (for sanitation purposes) and then measure the specific gravity of the beer. Then you throw the beer away (or drink it if it’s near being done).  Here’s the deal – you need a TON of beer to measure it if you don’t have the right kind of container to put the beer in.  The hydrometer is tall, so the container you are using has to be at least that tall, too. The closes thing I had was a flower vase, which would have meant I needed about two pints of beer in order for the hydrometer to float correctly. Instead, we just didn’t take a measurement. Probably a major faux pas, but I wasn’t about to waste that much beer. I bought a tube today that is designed for just this purpose. I’ll take a measurement tonight.

Cheers,

Steve

Tasting the Wort

Michael stopped by to lend moral support. He tasted the wort and declared “Tastes like Grape Nuts!” True, true.

Keith stirs the wort.

We have wort! Keith works the paddle. The entire house smelled like a brewery.

Siphoning the ale into the carboy.

Siphoning. This also took a while. We’ll try a funnel next time.

Serious action going on today with last night's batch of pale ale.

Serious action going on today with last night’s batch of pale ale.

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Giddyup. Brewing beer tonight.

Amarillo Hops

We’ll be using Amarillo Hops in our first batch of beer.

Psyched!  Just picked up all the gear we needed from Hops and Berries.  Man, those people are great – thank you, Alison.  They walked me through the whole process – I even got to mill my own grains (this involved weighing them, dumping them into a grinder, and flipping a switch).  The only thing I didn’t buy there was a huge boiling pot – picked up a 20-quart pot at Target instead – hoping that wasn’t a mistake.  We’re going to be brewing an American Pale Ale tonight with Amarillo hops (H&B’s Hop of  the Month).

All we need now are bottles…60 of them.  But we’ve got two weeks to come up with them and we’ve got a head start already. We’re planning on re-using bottles from beer we’ve purchased – I’d better get drinking. Stay tuned…

Cheers,

Steve

P.S. Special thanks to my wife, Gwen,  for letting me skip a birthday party to buy beer supplies on a Saturday. What a gal.

Current fridge situation

We need empty bottles – I’d better get started on some of these…

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Day three. No closer to beer.

Work emergencies, 1st grade orientation, and dinner prep got in the way yesterday of my trip to buy beer equipment and supplies. Perhaps today….

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“Making quality beer is EASY!”

Charlie Papazian, you are speaking my language, brother. By the third paragraph in the introduction to your book , I find my heart rate increasing by sentences like “[This book] is for you who want to jump right in a brew a batch of beer today” and “superb beer can be made just by following the fundamental principles of brewing in the beginner’s section” and then “Making quality beer is easy.” This is music to my ears. I’m hooked. Let’s get this thing started.

The next section of the book is entitled “Is it Legal.” I’ll skip that one.

Tomorrow I buy the “beginner’s” supplies. Here’s what my online research tells me it will cost:

Amazon.com: Homebrewing Equipment Kit: $97.99 + $25.49 in shipping (WTF?)

Home-brew.com: Basic Equipment Starter Kit for Beermaking: $79.95 + $19.04 shipping (UPS to Colorado)

Northern Brewer Homebrew Supply: Basic Kit: $79.99 + $7.99 shipping

Williams Brewing $114.00 (includes ingredients for American IPA) +$6.90 shipping

Instead, I’m going to go to my local Homebrew shop (support local, people!) called Hops & Berries. I should be able to get started for 100 bucks, I figure.

I have not told Keith I’m doing this already.

Cheers,

Steve

P.S. My friend Michael just stopped by and asked where we were going to put all the home brew stuff. Uh….looks like it’ll be going in the utility room.

Utility room is proposed location for beer making.

Michael: “Where are you going to brew it?”
Me: “Uh.”
I guess we’ll brew it here.

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This might be a bad idea.

August 17, 2012. Steve and Keith agree to learn to make beer together.

Keith (left) and I holding the book that we hope will teach us to make good beer.

Home brewing is cool, right? You get to make your own beer, buy lots of gadgets, and wow your friends with your hip, handcrafted beverages. Living in Fort Collins, Colorado, it seems like everyone is doing this and claiming to have success. So how hard can it be? We aim to find out.

Last night over beers (and later whiskey), I coerced my friend Keith into diving into a great experiment. Could two guys with limited financial resources, demanding jobs, supportive spouses, young kids and a great love for beer learn to make their own beer and have it actually taste good?  So I bought a book that a brewing friend recommended, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, and we’re going to start at page 1 and see what happens.

This blog is where we’ll chronicle this little adventure – wherever it may lead (or not).

Cheers,
Steve

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