Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Double IPA Photo Shoot: The Brew Day Itself

The length of time it's taking me to complete my photo shoot posts? The Double IPA is going to be ready to drink before I get this done.

But no matter. I press on.

Beer tea
We start with making a sort of "beer tea." The specialty grains (in muslin bags) get soaked in water at 150 degrees for about 30 minutes. But no boiling the grain! Boiling grains leads to lots of bad flavors. Much like boiling tea bags to make tea. 

Although I'm kind of partial to boiling tea bags. That was my Dad's claim to iced-tea-brewing fame. Throw tea bags in a pot of water and then boil the hell out of it. Dad, awesome as he was, made some pretty awful iced tea. So, I don't boil my beer tea bags. Steep, and then get those bags of grain outta there. (Sorry, Dad. You had other strengths, for sure.)

Adding the extract
I mentioned in my previous post that extract is the way that we get most of our fermentable sugars into the beer. Once the grains have steeped, we add the extract. Off the heat so this really sticky stuff doesn't fall to the bottom of the brewpot and burn. That'd be worse than boiling grain bags. 

The boil
Once all that's done, boil it. Boil, baby, boil. At this point, you also start adding the hops. The bittering hops usually go in at around 60 minutes prior to the end of the boil. Flavoring hops get added somewhere in the middle. Aroma hops get added at the end. And yes, I label everything. Each hop bag (muslin again) with the name of the hop and the time we should add it to the brewpot. All on sticky notes stuck on the counter in front of each bag of hops. (I mentioned I'm an OCD brewer, right?)

Boiling the wort chiller
About a half hour in, we throw the wort chiller into the brewpot. The reason for this is to sanitize the chiller. Note the brown pot holder sandwiched between the plastic tubes and the hot brewpot? Melted intake and outtake tubes = bad mess.

Cooling the wort
Boil is over and it's time to cool the wort down to a temperature that won't kill the yeast once we've added it. Cold water comes in, swirls around the copper coils picking up the heat from the wort, and sends the water back out into the sink. Beats the crap out of ice baths to cool the wort. Target temp = about 75 degrees. Time to achieve = ~15 minutes. Pretty awesome.

Straining lots of gunk
Everything is cool now, but it's time to dump the wort into the primary fermenter. One problem? All the gunk that's collected in the wort to this point. So we strain this stuff out. And it's gross. It looks like baby poo.

Adding water
In a perfect world, we'd boil 5+ gallons of wort to give us our 5 gallons of end product. But (with the crappy kitchen/stove and all) we don't have the ability to boil it all. Our stove could NEVER boil 5 gallons of liquid. It takes POWER to boil that much. And power is something this kitchen sorely lacks. So we boil as much wort as we can and then add water to come up to the full 5 gallons required for the full batch. Oh, and it's bottled water, because our tap water sucks.

Adding yeast
Now it's time to add yeast. Lots of it. For this beer, we needed about 200 billion yeast cells. This packet here has about 100 billion. We added two. (We can do math, y'all. Well, Michael can. I just write the blog.)

Bubbles, baby!
Yeast needs lots of O2 in order to be fruitful and multiply. Here's Michael (jammie pants and all--the household's standard brewing uniform) with his O2 tank, adding oxygen to the wort. This is the last time we want air to mix with our beer. At this point, it's all good. Once we pass this point, air in our beer would make it taste like wet cardboard. That would be considered an "off flavor." 

You think?

What "done" looks like--at least for this stage.
Nice and snug in the primary fermenter,
which refers to this big plastic bucket
The lid is on. 

Now the beer sits in the primary fermenter for at least a week. And that air lock on the top? You watch it for bubbles, which is an initial sign that things are fermenting as they should be. The thought is that you should fill the air lock with alcohol (as opposed to water) so that if any of the liquid in it gets pulled into the beer, it's clean. And (BONUS!) a little bit of extra booze doesn't hurt the final amount of alcohol in the beer. Most people use vodka, but I use what I have on hand: rum. 

Yay me.

Next up? After the beer sits here a week and does its fermentation thing, we'll move it to a secondary fermenter for more fun and games. And I'll chronicle some new stuff we haven't done before.

But for right now? It's Thursday night and karaoke calls. 


  1. That is fascinating! I had no idea all that went on to make beer.

  2. And that's just step #1! Once I get my act together, I'll finish the rest of the series. Thanks for reading!