Friday, November 17, 2006

My Kitchen Smells Like Beer

In an ongoing effort to make simple things more time consuming and slightly cheaper, I have begun brewing my own beer. This is something I had been considering for years and after I brewed a gallon of fantastic porter from a kit I was given as a gift, well, I was hooked. My second 5 gallon batch is in a secondary fermenter in the corner of my kitchen and will with any luck be bottled this weekend.

For my birthday in September I asked my family to give me gift certificates to the local homebrew supply shop, Niagara Traditions Homebrew. From them I bought an easy and cost effective kit and brewed 5 gallons of stout. I used a prepackaged brewing kit for ingredients and got a nice, basic, roasty sort of stout. Brewing from a prepackaged kit is akin to making a box cake, and perfectly serviceable for a first batch.

When I started my second batch I had to label the first so that I could tell them apart. I didn't give the stout any sort of cute names since it wasn't an original recipe, just a kit, but I did browse the internet for an appropriate picture.

For some reason I have always associated the word "stout" with suffragettes. I think it's something about the determined and impenetrable bosom. This photo is accompanied by the word "stout" in bold letters on all the remaining bottles. My plan is to cellar the last bottle or two of this and every batch to drink at some later date, possibly to compare a year's worth of beer at a time.

The batch waiting patiently in it's fermenter next to the rabbit cage is a pumpkin ale made according to a recipe in the book my friend Cat gave me as a gift at the end of the summer. It was fun to make as the recipe included a whole pumpkin. I used one from my Dad's garden. Pumpkin ale makes an unbelievable mess when you are trying to slop it from the brew pot where it was recently boiling through a colander and into a fermenter (i.e. 5 gallon white plastic bucket) placed on the kitchen floor. I splattered the floor and cupboards with hot sticky sweet wort. Please never do this in my mother's kitchen. I don't mind a quick mopping up at 11 o'clock on a Sunday night, but the sight would have given her a heart attack.

This time around I came up with a label design while I was boiling the wort. Having realized that my computer graphics skills are limited, and remembering that I don't own photoshop, drawing allows me much more control over the finished label, and is probably faster too. I may make a secondary label for the back of the bottle listing ingredients, alcohol content, and a warning not to drink beer if you're knocked up, but this is the finished front label.

As fermentation progresses I need to take regular samples of the beer and read them with a hydrometer to determine if fermentation is complete and I am ready to bottle. Since it would contaminate the batch to return the sample to the fermenter, I have been happily drinking each sample to see what it tastes like so far. Since the carbonation will be added in the bottle, the samples are flat, but otherwise it seems like it will become a medium bodied ale, somewhere between a brown ale and a red ale, with an added pumpkin and spice flavor in the background. Also from my tasting I have a feeling that the folks who wrote my recipe book are much fonder of hops than I am, so I will be cutting back on the hops content of any of their other recipes that I brew.

The stout was brewed with mostly malt but some sugar in the wort, and sugar for bottling. I find it lighter in body than I would like, so the pumpkin ale has only malt in the wort, although I will still bottle with sugar. If that doesn't give me the amount of body I want, I will make a porter next, and if that still doesn't do it I will have to start indiscriminately adding more malt to all my future recipes.

I also desire a scotch ale in the near future.

If I bottle this weekend the beer will be ready to drink the week after Thanksgiving. Drat! Next year if I do another pumpkin ale I'll need to start it in early October. This year's batch will be served as a Christmas beer.


Lisa and Robb said... bought the hydrometer.

We cheaped out, and just test our beer checking how much bubbling is going on, as well as by taste.

You actually put a whole pumpkin in your beer????

knitica said...

Yup, a whole pumpkin. It was a total mess because I've been doing partial boils in a big soup pot, and the pumpkin took up all together two much room. I ended up using two pots simultaneously.

Actually, I have bought two hydrometers, as I broke the first one immediately after sanitizing it and before taking any readings with it. The first came with the kit, and luckily the second cost less than $10.