Homebrewing, it’s for people who can’t cook

I can’t cook. Like I really can’t cook. I tried grilling a chicken breast a few weeks ago when my wife was coming home from work late. You know what she came home to? A house full of smoke, dog barking at the blaring smoke detector and me yelling at a pan full of burnt chicken. So why the hell would I think I could brew beer? Must be the hardheadedness I get from my dad.

I had a free weekday, no work and no wife, and saw the homebrewing kit I’ve had for months starring at me. I popped the DVD in and watched the poorly made and poorly instructed training. Went out to the store to get a thermometer and decided to give it a shot. 48 or so Irish Stouts on their way!

Here’s my adventure:

The Setup

Homebrew Setup

Homebrew Setup

After having to do a load of dishes to empty the sink, I sanitized my pot and various equipment using the Easy Clean provided in the kit. I placed everything I could think of out on my island and surrounding countertops. I read and reread my notes and warned a friend who just started homebrewing that I’ll probably be frantically calling him over the next couple hours.

Grains

Steeping grains

Steeping grains

My instructions said that if your grains aren’t crushed to lightly roll them with a rolling pin. I wasn’t exactly sure if they were crushed so I went ahead and poured my grains out onto the cutting board and started rolling. Let me say that pouring out that bag of grains was very gratifying. I knew that there was no turning back and this pleased me.

At the same time I got three gallons of water boiling in my five-gallon pot. I added my crushed grains to my muslin boiling bag. Once the water got to 155˚I placed the bag inside the pot and watched the water turn light brown. Some sediment came out of the bag but my buddy assured me it was okay after my first call. Over the next 20 or so minutes I started to prep for the next step.

Malt

Malt mixed in during homebrewing

Malt mixed in – hardest part by far that could have been prevented

As a video editor who edits training videos for a living I was absurdly disappointed in my DVD. I would have done a little more research but it said this is all you need to know to brew your first batch. Wellll it would have been nice to have told me to warm-up the malt extract. Instead, after the grains were done steeping and had been removed, I spent the next 10 minutes holding this jug trying to get the molasses-pouring liquid from a quart-sized milk cartoon. Not fun, especially when you’re 5’3” and was basically holding the jug over your head over a steaming pot of liquid.

In the end I got it all out while simultaneously stirring and then added the powder malt. I placed the pot back onto the burner and waited for it to crank back up to a boil.

Hops

Hops mixed into kettle

Hops mixed in – wait, I’m really doing this and the smoke detector hasn’t gone off yet?

Next I added a half ounce of Nugget bittering hops. I set the timer to 58 minutes and grabbed my first Guinness. I was on high alert for a boilover but it never came close thankfully. 57.5 minutes and three Guinnesses later I added one ounce of Willamette aroma hops and finished the remaining two minutes of the boil. Let me warn you that your house my smell like an illegal herb for a few hours after this.

Wort Ch-Ch-Chilling

Wort being chilled in ice bath

Wort being chilled in ice/cold water bath

This one was my fault. I severely underestimated how much ice my freezer makes. Once the boil was over I plugged up the sink drain, added all my ice and filled the rest with cold water.  I placed the pot now containing my wort to the sink. After fighting buoyancy and a small spillover (of the water, not the wort) I finally got the temperature down to 80˚. This took about 20 minutes and 200 four-letter words I won’t repeat in this medium.

Yeast & Fermentation

Mixing yeast

Adding yeast and aerating wort

Once the wort was cooled I poured it into the sanitized bucket where it’ll be living for the next few weeks. Next I added the remaining water to get it to five gallons. I aerated the wort the best I could stirring vigorously. Next I added my dry yeast and watched the bubbles begin. I closed the lid and added my airlock. Now I’m patiently waiting to bottle.

Outcome

Storage during primary fermentation

Temporary storage during primary fermentation

Well it’s been two weeks exactly and I think I should have some beer at this point. I’m going to take some hydrometer readings over the next few days to see if it’s ready for bottling. In hindsight I don’t think I’d do anything differently. It was fun which is what matters despite probably burning off half my arm hair.

Homebrewing gives so much appreciation for those that do it regularly and do it well. It truly is an art form and skill I hope to get better at with time. Until then, drink what you love and share the joy of craft beer with others.

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2 thoughts on “Homebrewing, it’s for people who can’t cook

  1. Really love reading this stuff. After seeing you go through the troubles and work out the kinks, it makes me want to try my own hand at things – seeing as we have polar opposite tastes.

  2. Pingback: Short On Beer 2013 Year in Review | Short On Beer

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