Monday, September 5, 2011

We made some beer!

Matt has brewed beer with friends before, but our place in San Diego was way too small to do it ourselves. Pretty much as soon as we found out we were moving to Kentucky Matt started getting excited about home brewing. So he ordered a starter kit complete with ingredients for a West Coast Pale Ale recipe from Home Brew Mart in San Diego (where the Ballast Point tasting room is in Linda Vista) and we brewed some beer! I'm still fuzzy on the process so I honestly couldn't explain much of what we did but here are some photos.

We basically used the simplest recipe possible by using dried malt extract. This provides sugar that the yeast will eat and turn into alcohol. In the future, we'll probably purchase some steeping grains from the local home brew supply store, My Old Kentucky Homebrew, but this was a good way to start.

Adding the malt extract.
After a lot of bubbling and stirring, we added hops. Because Matt is making beer with me we made something minimally hop-y, but all beer uses some bittering hops. I'm sure he'll want to dry hop something eventually.

Adding the hops.
Matt ordered a pot meant for an army or something, so it was too big to fit in our sink and we had to cool it in the bathtub. It made it a little tricky but it worked out. As a consequence of having a giant pot around the house I now want to make a huge batch of phở.

Cooling the wort
Once the beer had cooled to the right temperature, we moved it into our primary fermentor. At this point we used a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity or whatever, but unfortunately the recipe from Home Brew Mart didn't include the finishing gravity so really I still don't understand that part or why we did it. I guess it somehow measures the density of the liquid and that reflects how much alcohol is present? I don't really know. Anyway, we added the yeast, which is what turns sugar into alcohol. Yeast does some awesome things for us humans, if you think about it.

Adding the yeast.
Then the waiting game began. We kept an eye on the air lock (which is what allows the gas produced by the yeast to escape without letting naughty, undesirable organisms and contaminants in) to make sure the yeast was doing its work.

All sealed up!
After a week or so, it technically had alcohol, but again, because I don't understand the specific gravity thing I couldn't say how much.

Beer! Sort of.
Then we were ready to put it into a secondary fermentor to . . . ferment some more? Moving it is called "racking." I really don't understand the importance of moving it before it continues to ferment. I'll have to read up on the process before we try this again so I actually understand what's going on.

So then it hung out in this glass carboy, covered with a blanket to keep the light out, for a little more than a week before we were ready to bottle. This is when we added bottling sugar, which is what gives the yeast enough to eat to make carbonation. It doesn't carbonate before that because the air lock lets out those bubbles.

Dissolving the bottling sugar. This will give it bubbles!
Then we put it back into our primary fermentor because that bucket had a handy spigot for bottling, and then we bottled it and put lids on it. The bottling was actually kind of fun, but that may be because Matt did all the sanitizing because he is nice to me.

I should mention that the suckiest thing about home brewing beer is sanitizing everything. It's tedious and feels kind of uncertain. It is super important though because you only want yeast growing in there, not other nasty things. The beer is not quite ready yet as it has only been bottled for nine days, but we decided to try a bit and I dare say it tastes like beer! We're excited and look forward to starting another batch soon.


  1. Yay! Looks like a lot of steps but so much fun. It's awesome to do something that you get to enjoy later. Matt looks so proud in that last pic, LOL.

    Fun pointless facts I learned at my job: 75% of US hops (and a lot for export as well) are grown in WA's Yakima valley. Also, many people get asthma/allergies from/to hops. And hops are also used medicinally / and have some antimicrobial properties.

  2. Can you measure the alcohol content? Have you decided on a name for the brewery? If you try to sell it you'll need a KY License too.

    The wanna-be brewmeister,

    Dad (on MK's account).

  3. This looks like fun. Now I know Guy is going to want to try it.

  4. Hooray for home brew! I hope it turned out super yummy. Matt sanitizes our bottles in the oven. He puts foil over the tops, then puts them in the oven at some kind of germ-killing temperature, for a germ-killing length of time. You can do them in batches in the days/weeks leading up to brewing, and since the mouths are covered, nothing gets in after the sanitizing. At least it's worked for us. :)

  5. So, you never told me. How did the beer turn out?

  6. Hi, found your post through a google search. I am giving a talk on wort chilling and thought your picture of your wort in an ice bath in your bathtub was a good example of that technique. Have you continued brewing beer? I guess the move to Kentucky disrupted your blogging since I don't see any more posts. Thanks for the post, I love to see people getting into homebrewing.