Brew day today! The ingredients above are for a batch of black ale, American style. I decided to photograph the process, and thankfully got help from my lovely assistant [read: wife]. So here we are, with water, malt extract, hops, yeast, and some adjunct grains.
Next, a few shots of the gear involved. If it looks like a chemistry set, there’s a reason. There’s a great deal of chem in the process, backed up with a lot of biology in the ingredients (agriculture in growing, genetics in breeding hops and grain, bacteria strains for yeast, etc.
The odd snakelike things is a wort chiller … you’ll see its use in a few moments. Wort, by the way, is the name of the liquid after boiling, but before the yeast turns it into beer (yeast eats the sugars n wort and turns them into carbon dioxide and alcohol). So yeah, beer means you’re drinking yeast piss and farts. Still tasty, though!
This next is the truly critical part: cleaning and sanitation! Dirty gear means shady bacteria, which leads to ruined beer. As in, not fermented, or stinky (called “skunked” for a reason!) or otherwise just lousy.
Next, just add water! OK so there’s a bit more to it than that. I use distilled because I don’t trust the local tap not to bugger up my beer. I intend to try water modification later on, because different waters make different beer. Think Guinness vs. Pilsner, for example – Munich and Dublin water are very different animals.
Next, crushing and steeping adjunct grains – this is for color, and for some flavor. This is basically making malted grain tea.
Once the “tea” is done, the water is brought to a boil, and the malt added off-heat. This is what the yeast will eat, post-boil.
The heat breaks down the starches and sugars into something edible for the yeast, and hops are added at various stages to produce bittering, flavor, and aroma.
Next, the chiller is inserted a few minutes before the end of the boil (which is typically about 1 hour long).
Then the whole rig is moved to the sink and the chiller is hooked up to the tap, so cold water can be run through the wort without diluting it, to lower the temperature to about 80 degrees F. Reason? Yeast can’t be added to boiling liquid or you’ll kill it, and thus, get no beer. You can also put the pot in a bath of ice (or snowbank, if you live somewhere with winters like that).
Now, into the primary fermentation tank!
And aeration: adding oxygen to the wort. Yeast needs to breathe, after all! You can do this with a long-handled spoon, but I cheat and use a pain can stirrer and a power drill. Faster and less tiring!
And a test – to measure the density of the wort. This, combined with the density of the final product, can be utilized to give you a rough guesstimate of the ABV.
Then add the yeast, close it up, and put in an airlock to keep out contaminants but allow carbon dioxide to escape.
And after a few weeks, and a few more in the bottle to condition, voila!
Sit back and enjoy a pint. This one’s not from the batch photographed above (not black, obviously) – this was from a batch of ESB I did a month ago.
A fun process, and fun to enjoy the product! But set aside 5 or so hours for the process, it’s a long one. Invite people over and hang out while things boil, and enjoy a beer together.
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