Wednesday, December 29, 2010

English Brown Ale - 12/27/2010

Tonight I'm reminded again of just how much my wife loves me.

Although she can't stand the smell of beer boiling (especially the hops), she's been by my side all night helping me brew my latest batch, and taking pictures along the way.  :)

For Christmas I received my latest Brewer's Best kit.  This time I'm trying the English Brown Ale, which will hopefully turn out like Newcastle Brown Ale (a long-time favorite of mine).  This is the 5th kit that I've brewed.

Steeping the grains.  As I learned on Brew Masters, if the water goes over 170°, tannins are extracted that affect the flavor of the beer.  Tonight, I kept the pot over the burner even after I reached the target mark of 150°, but I think in the future I'm going to take it off the heat (at least partially) to help stabilize the temperature.  It got up to 165° tonight, which was making me nervous, but I think I corrected it in time.

Once the grains steeped for 20 minutes, it was time to bring the wort to a boil and mix in the liquid malt extract and dry malt extract.  On one of my earlier attempts, I poured the whole can of liquid extract into the boiling pot, only to have the thick syrup burn on the bottom of the pot.  Notice the slow pour technique employed tonight ;)

The malts had this batch foamier than I remember...

Once the wort was boiling, it was time for the bittering hops, which quickly got rid of the foam.  After 45 minutes of gentle boiling, the flavoring hops were added, followed by the aroma hops 10 minutes later.

60 minutes total boil time later, and it was time to cool the wort.  Since I haven't splurged on a fancy wort chiller yet, I made due with an ice bath in the sink (although I could have just stuck the lid on it and left it outside for a few minutes!

With the wort chilled, it was time to transfer it to the fermenter.  Here's another important step I missed in the past: filtering the wort.  What's filtered out is referred to as "trub," and it's primarily the hops that were added during the boil.

Looks pretty gross, but it smells so good!

Well, maybe not to everyone...

The last step is to add water until the total volume is around 5 gallons.  Here's another step that confused me in the past.  You want to add enough water to dilute the wort until the original gravity (that is, the gravity before fermentation) falls within the specified range.  The gravity relates to how much sugar is in the wort, which also relates to the alcohol percentage of the beer.  A higher gravity means the hydrometer will float higher (and there is more sugar).  Adding water will bring the gravity down (because the sugar is diluted).  I filled mine up a little past 4.5 gallons and checked the gravity.  This kits says the original gravity should be between 1.045 and 1.049.  Mine looked to be right at 1.050.  I should have added more water, but for whatever reason I was convinced 1.050 was the top of my desired range, so that's where I left it.

To finish up, the yeast gets mixed in,

the lid is secured, and the airlock is *gently* twisted into place.  Once, I pushed just a little too hard on the airlock, and the black rubber seal sunk to the bottom of the brew.  I had to transfer the wort into my bottling bucket just to fish it out.  That wasn't fun, and I'm sure it wasn't good for the beer, either.

And now, the fermenter has been transferred to our coat closet so the yeast can do its magic.  It's been around 24 hours now, and the airlock is bubbling every 6 to 8 seconds, so everything seems to be going as planned.  I'm a happy guy!

As with anything, brewing has a learning curve associated with it.  There's a lot of science behind making a good beer, and I'm still learning.  Mistakes will be made, but that's half the fun, right?



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