Archive for the ‘Home Brewing’ Category

The Oh So Important Bottle

Posted: November 23, 2010 by Overclocked in Home Brewing
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Where would our beer be without bottles?

In cans most likely. Actually, the can is mostly superior to the bottle when it comes to storage and distribution of beer. Think about it…

  • Cans are much more “space-efficient”. More cans in a truck means more profit.
  • Cans are lighter, requiring less fuel to transport an equal amount of bottled beer.
  • Cans protect beer better. They keep out all light and oxygen. Even brown bottles let light in (skunked hops) and bottle caps can leak
  • Recent advances in “can technology” keep that metal taste out of beer with a fancy coating inside the can

The one thing that bottles have going for them (and that cans have going against them) is the fact that the equipment required to have a canning line for beer is exponentially greater in cost than equipment needed to bottle. This is the main reason why most small breweries (micros and craft brewers) bottle their beer. You can pick up a bottle capper and a gross of caps for under $25 retail.

The cheap cost of bottling makes it ideal for the home brewer. Pick yourself up a case of your favorite beer in a pop-top brown bottle and you’ve got your first set of home brewing bottles and some “free” beer. Now, back to bottling that home brewed beer.

For new brewers, bottling can be difficult to get right at first. There are a few variables that should be considered.

Time
Its very common for a novice to try their freshly-bottled beer too soon and be disappointed when their beer is flat or under-carbed or just plain tastes bad. Time is your friend here. The general rule is 3 weeks at room temperature to carbonate and about 1 week in the refrigerator prior to consumption. Some lighter beers will take less time and some stronger beers will take much longer. This time allows the beer to properly carbonate and adjust to the cooler temperature of the refrigerator after carbonation is complete.

Beer becomes carbonated when the suspended yeast leftover from fermentation produces additional CO2. The CO2 cannot escape from the bottle so it diffuses back into the beer. In order to get the yeast to produce CO2 after being bottled, fermentable sugar (often corn or cane sugar) is mixed with the batch before being bottled.

Time is also important with respect to taste. Over time, the flavors of the beer will meld together and off-tastes and overpowering flavors can fade out. If your new brew doesn’t taste very good. Try it again in a few months. You may be surprised at what a few months can do for a “rough” beer.

Temperature

Yeast are more active at warmer temperatures so, beer that has been bottled and stored at a warmer temperature will tend to carbonate quicker than bottled beer stored at cooler temperatures.

Process

You will most likely want to transfer the beer from the fermenter to another container to bottle from. This transfer allows you to transfer just the beer and keep the sediment from fermentation, in the fermenter. This container (a ‘bottling bucket’ is commonly used) will also provide space for you to mix in the sugar which will jump-start the remaining yeast and allow carbonation to occur.

Dissolving the sugar in a small amount of water and then boiling will ensure that the sugar solution is sterilized so as not to infect the beer. Adding the sugar solution carefully (so you don’t splash and oxygenate the beer) will ensure even carbonation once bottled. Care should be taken, especially with glass bottles, that the proper amount of sugar is used. Too much can be very dangerous as over-carbonated glass bottles can explode spontaneously or when bumped and send shards of glass in all directions.

Keep these considerations in mind and you should wind up with a delicious home brew. Anyway, enough home brewing lecture for now.

– Overclocked

The First Home Brewed Beer

Posted: November 23, 2010 by Overclocked in Home Brewing
Tags: , , ,

Finally got a recipe right and what resulted was a decent American Pale Ale. Copper red in color with a decent head and a hoppy, floral aroma and bitterness from Cascade hops. I could have added some more caramel malt to add to the malt body but it wasn’t bad as it was.

Up until this delicious batch my home brewing trials had been disappointing to say the least. The first two attempts had me wondering if it was even worth all the time and trouble. I had an under-fermented, under-carbonated, stale tasting Oktoberfest and an overcomplicated and horrible looking/tasting cherry brown ale.

After setting aside the “kit-in-a-can” and creating a simple recipe, I was able to get close to the desired result. I was originally aiming for an amber ale, not too hoppy. I probably went a little over on the hops though so what resulted was a nice Pale Ale – about 28 IBUs.

A quick rundown on how making beer works:

1). Malted barley (barley which has been allowed to start to germinate and then stopped) is combined with water at a specific temperature (normally between 150 deg. F & 160 deg. F) for a specific amount of time in a process called “mashing”. The mashing of the grains allows the starches to be converted into fermentable sugars. The liquid, now called “wort” is drained from the grains.

2). The wort is boiled with hops and other ingredients added at specific times to add bitterness to balance the sweet flavor profile of the malt.

3) The wort is then cooled and yeast is “pitched” to start fermentation. The fermentation is done at a specific temperature to allow the yeast to work efficiently. After the beer has finished fermentation, it can either be bottled and allowed to carbonate in the bottles naturally or kegged and force-carbonated.

Now, there are three main ways to brew beer at home. You have your “kit-in-a-can” (which is the cheapest and least involved way) which unfortunately results pretty crappy beer. The basic idea with these kits is to combine the basic beer ingredients (Malt, Hops, Yeast, Water) with a very simple process to make it easier for the novice brewer. The malt (often called extract) is actually wort that has been condensed into a syrup and “pre-hopped” – meaning hops have been added to the extract (condensed wort). All you have to do is boil the extract with water, cool the wort, pitch the yeast and ferment.

The next step up is what is called partial extract. A higher quality extract called DME (dry malt extract) is often used. The extract is a dry powder, rather than a liquid syrup which allows for a more stable shelf life and less chance of “stale” flavors. This method is called partial extract because the wort is only partially made of extract. The other ingredient is often specialty grains (steeping grains) and other adjuncts.

The specialty grains (crystal barley, chocolate malt, black malt, etc.) and adjuncts (oats, corn flakes, etc.) are steeped at a certain temperature for about 30-45 minutes. This isn’t the same as mashing since no conversion of starches to sugars takes place. Steeping is done just to obtain color, body (unconverted starches and proteins), and flavor from the grains and add that to the wort. The wort is created by steeping the grains, then adding and dissolving the dry malt extract. The rest of the process then continues normally.

The last and most advanced way to brew beer at home is called all-grain brewing. Brewers will use nothing but malted grains to create the wort. The base grains are mashed, sometimes along with specialty grains and the brewing process continues with boiling, hops addition, cooling, pitching yeast and fermenting. All-grain brewing allows a brewer to have complete control over what goes into their recipe. It also requires a more precise recipe and more involved equipment.

I find the partial extract method works well because I don’t need a ton of equipment or space (I can brew in my apartment kitchen), its not as time consuming as all-grain but I can still get great results (much better than kit in a can).

The next phase of home brewing, bottling/kegging I feel deserves it’s own section because there are so many variables to take into account.

– Cheers

I’m still in the process of trying all different kinds of beers in an effort to further my beer knowledge and palate. We’ll call it “research”. In addition to being tasty and fun my “research” has another upside. I’m keeping all the bottles for my home brewing endeavours.

Seriously, who in their right mind would spend $35+ for 24 EMPTY low-quality bottles?? I can spend almost half that and they come with a tasty beer treat inside. The downside – cleaning. Meh, oh well.

I recently tried a few brews but didn’t post for each one of them. I’m going to lump them all in here mainly because i’m lazy.

St. Peter’s Cream Stout

The unique bottle is what drew me to try one of St. Peter’s brews.
St. Peter's Cream Stout

The malty beverage is dark ruby with enough light but black otherwise. A tan head is present but quickly dissipates. Almost no lacing at all. The aroma is sweet – chocolate, dark fruit (almost wine-like) some hints of coffee. The stout has a bittersweet taste which includes the chocolate and coffee flavors. Fuggle hops provide a warm earthy aroma and challenger hops provide a slight english bitterness. The creamy mouthfeel combines with the sweetness but is not overpowering. Aftertaste is clean and somewhat smokey.

Overall this beer is smooth, easy to drink and not too overly sweet. A nice “traditional” English brew.

Black Pearle Dark IPA – By RJRockers

Would you like some IPA with your chocolate and coffee? I mean holy hell, take a sip of this and it’s like someone dunked your head into a vat of espresso and chocolate sauce.

Their site reads:

The first release in the “Ales from the Dark Side” series…A dark, roasted twist on the traditional IPA that uses an absurd amount of malt and is “octo-hopped” with the German Perle hop. The biggest beer in the RJ Rockers linup to date.
9.5% abv

Absurd is definitely a good word. The malt hits you in the mouth with rich semi-sweet chocolate and coffee flavors and is just barely cut down by the hops that follow. I will be honest, I did not finish the 22oz bottle. This to me is something I could enjoy in a smaller goblet and just one at that. Not bad, just different and not my cup of tea.

Hefewiezens

I wanted to get away from all the run-of-the-mill pale ales, strong/Imperial brews and just wanted something that was easy to drink and enjoyable. I’ve tried three Hefewiezens so far. In order of personal preference, Sierra Nevada Kellerweis, Widmer Brothers Hefewiezen and Dream Weaver Wheat.

Sierra Nevada is by far my favorite of the three. You get that classic wheat flavor along with a tiny bit of spice from the yeast. Its balanced and not too “tangy”. I could easily down a bunch of these. Apparently SN ferments this beer “Bavarian style” where the fermentation is open to the air. This supposedly adds “depth and complexity”. I dunno, I just know its very good.

Widmer Brothers Hefewiezen is a little different. Whatever yeast they use in this beer must finish very clean because you get a very clean taste – almost lager-like. Good flavor but not as rich as the Sierra Nevada hefe. Number two on my list.

Dream Weaver Wheat. Do not like. Something about the finish just puts me off. Perhaps it was a sub-par batch but it seemed almost sour. Now I know some beers are purposely sour but I do not believe this is supposed to be. Definitely not dreaming about this beer.

Anyway, thats all I’ve got for now. Cheers.