Six weeks after we started, we finally got to taste our first batch of homebrew. Meg and I hosted the event at our place, where we would also be having Easter dinner. I think we were all a little nervous about how it would end up and I was fully prepared for the possibility that we’d have to let the beer condition in the bottle for another few weeks.
I opened the first bottle and was relieved to hear the hiss of escaping CO2. I poured the beer a little aggressively, in case there wasn’t enough carbonation. Turns out that wasn’t necessary, since the pour produced a huge, fluffy head. So far, so good. Continue reading
Looks like one of our planning sessions
On the same day we bottled the ‘Nookie, we got going on our third beer, the Houblonmonstre Tripel IPA kit from Northern Brewer. They describe the kit like this:
Once upon a time a poor homebrewer was lamenting the lack of time that the modern world allowed him for his hobby. He had the ingredients for a batch of Tripel and a batch of IPA, but the demands of home and work life were such that he had no opportunity to brew them, and so he cried himself to sleep. While he slept, a collective of Ardennes Forest Beer Gnomes (Houblonmonstres, in Flemish) came into his house and took pity on the poor homebrewer. They decided they’d brew his beer for him. Unfortunately, the Gnomes were already three sheets when they broke into his home, and so they combined the ingredients for the two batches. This recipe is the result of their drunken meddling: an elegant and pale strong abbey ale carpet-bombed with American and continental hops. You’re going to have to do the brewing yourself, though.
Pretty cool to picture a bunch of drunken gnomes making beer, especially since this is a tribute to Houblon Chouffe, a very tasty and strong beer. Liles and his wife Brandi, however, thought that a strong Belgian should pay tribute to the most famous strong Belgian of all, which is why we are calling it:
Well, we bottled our IPA about a week ago, but I didn’t get a chance to post until now.
Bottling went pretty well, considering that most homebrewers find it to be a major pain in the ass according to what I have read. Having three people probably helps. Anyhow, we made a day of it. Before bottling our IPA, we racked our Saison into secondary fermentation. Jeff bought a cool beer thief/test tube contraption that helped us to take an accurate gravity reading.
I'm not a scientist, but I play one in Jeff's kitchen
The saison had a final gravity of about 1.01, which is about on target for what we wanted. We stole a taste after the reading and the flavor seemed right on. After an additional month of conditioning, I bet it will taste pretty awesome. Continue reading
On the same day we racked our ‘Nookie IPA, we started working on our second beer, a Belgian-style saison, otherwise known as a farmhouse ale. Jeff picked out the kit from Northern Brewer. All three of us are fans of the style and, with warmer weather approaching, this seemed like a good choice. We are calling it:
The label for our second beer (click to enlarge)
Here is how the first day went down:
After racking our IPA, we got started on brewing the Farmhouse 11. It went pretty smoothly at first. We steeped the specialty grains, just like we did with our IPA, then got up to a full boil. We cut the heat, then added the malt extract (6.3 lbs Gold Malt Syrup and 1 lb Gold Dry extract). We got the wort back up to a boil and added the first half ounce of hops, which led to: Continue reading
Our inaugural IPA stayed in the primary fermenter for two weeks in Jeff’s guest bedroom. Jeff monitored the temperature during that time, which varied between 60 and 65 degrees. After the two weeks, it was time to rack the beer into a glass carboy, generously donated by my coworker Bridget. We will have to name a beer after her one of these days. Racking was extremely easy, since we used an auto siphon.
There was a ton of yeast built up in the primary fermenter after we were done. Some of it made it into the carboy as well. I can now see why it’s important to do a two-stage fermentation. After the beer was racked, I secured the airlock. Continue reading
Rough draft of our first beer label
For our first beer, we decided to brew an IPA using a single hop variety, in this case Chinook. Of course, we are starting off by using extract kits and Northern Brewer has a great variety of styles to choose from. Their Chinook IPA kit seemed like a good place to start. Brewing this particular beer was attractive, since it would give us some insight into the particular flavor of Chinook hops. Most IPAs use a variety of hops for both their bitterness and aromatic qualities, so once this is done, I hope to be able to isolate exactly what qualities Chinook hops bring to a beer.
Here’s how it all went down:
We assembled at Jeff’s place and put our brand spanking new brewing equipment to the test. I was kind of nervous about messing this up, so I made it a point to memorize as much of the process as I could, based off of Northern Brewer’s helpful inventory sheet. After some pregame planning over pizza and beer, we fired up Liles’ turkey fryer burner and got our brew on. First, we steeped the specialty grains (.75 lb Belgian Caramel Pils, .25 lb Breiss Caramel) in the water while waiting for it to hit 170 degrees. Then we pulled the grains and waited for the water to come to a nice rolling boil. We cut the heat, then added 6 lbs Pilsen malt Syrup and 1 lb Pilsen Dry Malt extract. After bringing the wort back to a boil, we added one ounce of pellet hops, then added another half ounce with 10 minutes left, and another half ounce at burnoff. Continue reading
After months (years?) of discussing it, me and my friends Jeff and Liles finally decided to start home brewing about three weeks ago. All three of us are fans of big beers: “hop grenade” IPAs, midnight black imperial stouts, anything aged in bourbon barrels, funky Belgian ales, you name it. It was high time for us to get into the art and science of actually making the stuff. We wanted to hit the ground running and make the same kind of beer we enjoy drinking. No wimpy amber ales or low ABV session brown ales for this crew. We would rather fail making a beer we want, rather than succeed at something we will never drink.
Jeff agreed to host the brewing at his house in the Highlands neighborhood in North Denver, since he has a nice big kitchen and a suitable outdoor space for brewing. He also lives geographically between me and Liles, so it’s convenient for all three parties.
This blog will serve as a record of our efforts and hopefully help us to learn from our successes and, more importantly, our failures. First up, Nookie IPA!
Can these three guys possibly figure this out? (Photo: M. Walker)