As you know we’re loving life here in Fort Collins, and Fort Collins is an amazing town. While here we’re trying to enjoy as much of the local experience as possible, and so we decided to give one of the major past-times a try – home brewing! Despite the fact that there are an insane number of local breweries lots of people also try their hand at brewing their own beer, as well as the occasional wine/ moonshine.
First things first, we had to buy the equipment. Not much is needed for home brewing since there are really just two main steps – boil it all up and then leave it to sit for a while 🙂 For the boiling we just needed to buy a large enough pot, and a thermometer to monitor everything; For the fermenting we needed a storage container, an airlock and a second thermometer. Finally, a siphon to move the beer between containers and sanitizer to keep everything nice and clean. Generally people make beer in five gallon batches, although we decided to just do little one gallon batches to start with. This is quicker so it lets us do more experimentation and means that we’re not spending lots of money on ingredients if our beer is going to taste weird 😉
This brings us to part two – buying the ingredients! Again, this is fairly straightforward. To make beer you need malt extract (or grain, if you’re feeling fancy), hops, yeast and water. We started off nice and easy using malt extract, which meant that we could skip the whole business of extracting malt extract directly from the grain. Don’t worry though, we have given that a go since.
And now for the hard part – actually making the beer! First things first, get a pot of water and get it boiling. While doing this you want to weight out your malt extract, which is kind of like treacle in consistency:
Mix that into the boiling water, and make sure everything is nicely blended. This then boils away for an hour, and you add hops throughout the boil depending on what kind of flavor you’re going for. For this recipe, which is an Amber Ale, we need to add hops right at the start and then some more right at the end:
I wish I could somehow convey the smell of the hops through this blog, because they smell amazing. This made up for the fact that the hops look very much like rabbit pellets…
Once we’d thrown a few hops into the mixture and got the thermometer set up (all of which made my inner Chemist very happy) we left it to boil away for a little while:
We start off with about two gallons of liquid boiling away, and this boils down to just one gallon over the hour. Once it’s all boiled down you throw in the rest of the hops, give it another five minutes and then move the whole thing over to some ice water to cool right down:
It’s kind of hard to see in the picture but the resulting liquid is now pretty cloudy and not looking that great. This is why you need to be careful while filtering, to make sure you don’t end up with an overly chewy beer…
Whilst the beer is filtering you get to sanitize everything else that is going to be used, since you definitely want to avoid getting any foreign bacteria in the mixture. These will result in a bad tasting final result, and if you’re very unlucky the extra gas production may cause the whole thing to explode. Not ideal in a rented apartment, so we sanitized hard! After that we siphoned the beer over to the container…
We then checked the alcohol content to make sure that we weren’t going to accidentally blind ourselves, and continued to cool the whole thing:
The beer really needs to be kept below about 25oC while fermenting so that the yeast doesn’t die, which is not that easy when the ambient temperature is 30oC…
Once the beer finally cooled down we put the airlock in and left it, and it now needs to sit in the dark for a few weeks to figure itself out! After two weeks fermenting we take the airlock out and replace it with a seal so that the beer can carbonate, and voila.
Fingers crossed we get a tasty final result, so watch this space!