23 August, 2014

The Yeast Is ALIVE!!!

That should read:

The yeast is ALIVE!!!

...and you should maybe hear some creepy Frankenstein music, followed by some triumphant Rocky Balboa music.  The title line doesn't allow letter formatting, so I have to spell out the cues so you get the multiple layers of meanings.

It's been a couple years since I've done any posting to my blog (in fact, I have a partially completed draft from November 2012 that I'm debating on whether to delete or post).  I'm sure the 12 followers I used to have gave up on getting anything new a long time ago.  So I'm going to assume I'm writing this for me.  At some point, maybe I'll let people know I'm filling my e-pages again, but for now I'll keep it small scale.
--------------On to my title:
For various reasons (some of which I'll likely go into in future posts), I've decided to start trying my hand at brewing beer.  One of the reasons that I started thinking of this a while ago is that I don't care for IPAs - and a lot of the beer offered up here is really hoppy.  I'm trying to expand my palate so I have more to choose from than a hefeweisen, white, or fruit beer (usually raspberry wheat), but apparently I'm rather particular, and there just aren't that many options for someone who doesn't care for the bittery hops taste or the darker beers.

When we visited Colorado a few years ago, one thing I remember is the virtual cornucopia of beer selection.  It's when I got really interested in beer, because it was so tasty and there were so many options.  Of particular note were the lemon grass and the chai beers.  They're what I remember most, but I had good beer everywhere we stopped.

And now I've started by making my very own first beer.  Greg's helping me, since he's done home brewing several times in the past and this is my first foray into the art.  We started with something that should be simple, but was more than a kit.  Like making my first cake from scratch, rather than a box mix.

To start, we spent three hours pulling out all Greg's equipment and sanitizing everything.  Turns out that we decided to replace some things (is that just discoloration, or black mold growing on that plastic? - why won't that discoloration go away? - I don't have anything small enough to get in and scrub the dust / dead spider out of this thing...), rather than trying to find a way to salvage them.  Probably better for everyone that we were wise like that.
We picked up the ingredients (and whatever replacements were necessary), and the next evening we took a drive.  It wasn't because I was too nervous to start my first venture (although I admit to a bit of trepidation), nor was it because the weather was just too fine so we had to pass on brewing (although the weather was indeed spectacular).  The actual reason was to get the water for the recipe.  Greg says we can't use tap water (or if we do, the beer won't taste very good).  So the options are to buy RO water (reverse osmosis, according to the recipe) or head out to the pipe along Turnagain Arm and get fresh (well / spring / glacier / from the rocks) water.  And that's exactly what we did.
What followed was another long evening.  It was fun and exciting, but I also had a mini-meltdown and was sure that I'd ruined what was supposed to be a relatively easy recipe for my very first beer.  The whole process is a bunch of this:  add something then wait for a while; add something else then wait some more; add something and choose whether or not you want to add this other thing, then wait some more...  So during the waiting periods we spent time visiting, Greg grilled hot dogs for dinner, we cursed the rain (but I noticed it beading up really nicely on the new deck paint - yay!), we stirred the pot and checked the temperature, and we waited.  At various points we added grains, malt extract, hops, and spices.

A few things that I've learned from my beginning venture:
  • Always, always use a mesh bag to steep any additives (like cracked coriander) - leaving it loose makes it so the spout on the keg cook pot becomes blocked and you have to move your operation inside to get the remaining liquid into the carboy.
  • If you're having to scoop floating debris out of your beer, you should not try putting it down the disposal in the kitchen.  It will plug the drain and then you'll have to use the plunger to get the water to drain properly again.  Use the trash can - it's much more forgiving.
  • Beer yeast is sensitive to temperature, similar to how bread yeast is sensitive.  Which brings us to the title of my post:
I didn't kill the yeast!  Which means that the beer is doing whatever chemical reaction it does at this stage.  I'm not sure whether my beer will taste like crap yet, but I know it has a chance to be a real beer, with carbonation and everything.  (Cue Pinocchio voice: It's going to be a real beer!)  I know this because we had to clean up some spillage.  The yeast is bubbling enough that oozy foam is leaking out the de-gasser thing on top and pooling at the base of the carboy.  So, having to clean up a mess is a good indicator that my first beer is not dead out of the gate.  Yay!  I'll take that as a positive.  Greg says this is not technically a wheat beer, although we used wheat malt extract, and it's not really an amber, although the color is more similar to that, but something of a hybrid.  I don't have a name for it yet, but here's a picture of the product in day two of fermentation:

This one doesn't require a secondary transfer.  The next time we touch this (aside from cleaning up more oozy foam), we'll be transferring to bottles.  It'll sit in the bottles for a while, and then it'll be the true test.  But before we get there, I'm already on the hunt for my next recipe, because we'll be brewing again before I even get to taste the results of my first one... *fingers crossed*  Here's to hoping my beers are actually tasty (and definitely don't poison anyone)...

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