My First Brew Day

Today was a big day for me. A day I’ve been thinking about and planning for a long time. My first beer brewing day! And I want to tell anyone that might be interested in learning the ancient art of brewing that it was not hard at all. There is a time commitment of several hours but the project I have been intimidated by for years was actually not difficult.

So how did I get started?

This being my first time brewing, I wanted to keep the complexity as low as possible. I went to my local brew supply to pick up a starter kit consisting of: two 6.5-gallon food grade buckets, a syphon, a hydrometer, some cleaning brushes, and some sanitizer powder. This is all that’s needed to get started and can be upgraded on an as-needed basis. I already had a large pot for boiling water and the other tools that would be needed in the kitchen. I purchased a recipe kit, as well. This kit conained all the pre-portioned malt, hops, yeast, and grains for my brew. All told, I was in this project for about $170.00. And I won’t need to buy the equipment again, so the financial barrier to entry is relatively low.

I picked out a recipe for “Amazing Gracie”, a New England Double IPA (NEIPA). NEIPAs are known to be a hazy, fruity IPA that I tend to gravitate towards. So now I had everything I need and brew day came around on Saturday. First thiings first, brewing beer requires getting some yeast to go to town munching on the sugars in malt and the wort we will prepare with the grains. So cleanliness is key. Everything needs to be cleaned and sanitized prior to use and sanitary procedures must be followed at each step to prevent nasty organisms from growing in the fermenting beer.

I started by heating 2.5 gallons of water to about 150 degrees in my big pot. At 150 degrees, I can submerge and agitate my grains, a mix of barley and oats, in the water for 15 minutes to produce wort. At this time, I discard the grains and bring the wort to a boil. At boiling, I add the pre-measured malts to my pot and stir. This is where a 30-minute timer starts. At specific intervals defined in the recipe, I added pre-portioned hops to achieve the flavor profile for Amazing Gracie NEIPA. When the timer goes off, after the hops have been added, it’s time for an ice bath in the sink to bring the wort down to fermentation temperature. This is the “whirlpool” stage. It is known as whirlpool because the rapidly cooling liquid needs to be stirred to a whirlpool for 15 or so minutes as it comes down to temperature. The wort is cooled further when I add it to my primary fermentation bucket with more cooled water to bring the total volume to about 5 gallons.

Now, here is where I ran into an issue. The hydrometer is suppose to be used at this point and again at the end of fermentation to calculate final alcohol by volume (ABV). My hydrometer came out of the package broken already. So I skipped this step. So at the end of this process I will not be able to confirm my ABV for this brew. I do have an estimate from the recipe of 6.13%. I will order a new hydrometer for the next brew day.

When the wort cools to about 65 degrees or so, it is time to aerate and add the yeast. Before adding the yeast, I poured the mixture back and forth between two containers to thoroughly aerate. Now to pitch the yeast. Here is where I made a mistake: I added the yeast but forgot to sanitize the outside of the package before hand. If I have any sanitation issues during the fermentation stage, I suspect it will be caused by this. I am confident I followed sanitation procedure well enough that this will not be a problem, we will see.

My primary fermantation is now happening in the pantry.

Update 1 (~24 hours into primary fermentation):

I checked the primary fermenter after about 24 hours and the airlock is bubbling rapidly. So my yeast is alive, happy, and turning oxygen and sugar into alcohol. Next update will be on bottling day.

Update 2 (~72 hours into primary fermentation):

I opened the container for the first time to dry-hop with 1 oz of hops. I noticed the airlock was bubbling much more slowly and has not started bubbling again since I resealed. I lightly stirred the hops into the liquid and broke up the yeast “crust” at the top.

Update 3 (9 days into primary fermentation):

The airlock is no longer bubbling at all, as far as I can tell. When I get down close to the airlock it smells like beer.

What’s going on right now

What I’m building right now:

🚧 Writing an article on big data methods for solving compliance problems. More to follow.

What I’m drinking right now:

🍺 Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

What I’m reading right now:

📚 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien

What I’m watching right now:

📺 It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

What I’m playing right now:

🎮 Minecraft Dungeons

What I’m Learning right now:

🎓 🎸 “Wild Thing”.
🎓 nvim
🎓 GoLang
🎓 AWS Certified Solution Architect Certification