The first wedding brew is in the closet fermenting. Want to see how it was made?
First let’s take a look at the ingredients:
- (2) 3.3 lb Briess CBW Brewers Gold Dry Malt Extract
- 1 1 lb Briess CBW Brewers Gold Dry Malt Extract
- 1lb Maris Otter Pale Ale Malt
- .25 lb Crystal Malt 60L
- .25 lb Caramel Malt 20L
- .25 lb Brown Malt 60L
- 1.2 oz Whole-Flower Cascade for bittering
- 1 oz Citra
- 2 oz Galaxy
- Bry 97 WEST COAST Ale yeast
Let’s touch on the basics of brewing for a quick review. The basic process goes like this: extract sugars from grains in water to create a sweet malty liquid called wort, boil the wort and add hops to flavor it, put it in a fermenter with some yeast, the yeast eat the sugars and produce alcohol and co2 as byproducts. Now it’s beer!
I’ll go over the basics with this brew and go into greater detail on individual steps on my later posts.
To start we simply need water.
I am using about 3 gallons here, even though this will be a five gallon batch. You simply add water to make up the difference once you transfer the wort to the fermenter. I’ll discuss what wort is later on.
I use filtered water as I believe it has a cleaner taste. Some people actually prefer tap water as it gives their beer a unique flavor that can only be accomplished locally, kind of like a signature or a fingerprint, each water source actually adds different flavors to the finished product.
Now that we have our filtered water ready we need to heat it up and start steeping our specialty grains. Why do I call them specialty grains? Because this is not actually where the majority of our fermentable sugars come from. These grains will add a little bit of sugar (remember sugar is what later turns into alcohol), but are mostly there to add specific flavors.
To steep the grains we put them in a bag and put them in the pot much like a tea bag. Then we need to bring the temperature up to about 160 degrees and let them sit for about 10-15 minutes. Why 160 degrees? This is about the temperature at which long complex sugar chains in the grains are converted to the shorter size sugar molecules that the beer yeast cells like to eat. Some of the complex sugars will be left over and these will add a little sweetness to the beer.
Once the steeping is done we need to bring the grain water (wort) to a boil. Now that the water has some grain sugars in it we call it wort. Once the water starts to boil I add in the DME (dry malt extract) which is where the majority of our sugar comes from. Basically I do not have the setup yet to properly extract and convert sugars from large quantities of grain (25 – 50lb) so there are companies out there that extract the sugars for you and reduce it down to an extract. So DME is simply a bag of grain sugar.
Once the DME is added we start what brewers simply call “the boil”. The boil is where the beer really starts to come alive because we get to add my favorite ingredient, HOPS! Most people do a 60 minute boil, but times may vary depending on recipe and style. We are doing a 60 minute boil here.
Currently if we were to ferment the wort we would be left with a sweet bready tasting alcoholic drink. It would be bland and nasty. This is where hops come in. Hops actually can do many things for the beer but mainly they provide bittering, flavoring, and aroma. So right now I’m going to bitter the beer up a bit by adding 1.2 oz of whole-flower Cascade hops.
These hops are commonly used in IPAs and are responsible for the infamous grape-fruity flavor. But guess what, by putting them in early in the boil as a bittering hop they will only impart a slight citrus quality, not the overbearing grapefruit flavor that I actually quite love. Alas, another hop will take center stage for the flavor of this beer.
So now we have bittered our sweet wort up a bit and we are starting to round out the flavors. Now we wait 50 minutes for the boil to continue and let the flavors meld. … Now with only 10 minutes left in the boil we are going to add some aroma and a little flavor to the beer by adding 1 oz of Citra hops. This hop is a favorite of mine. It imparts a bit of a floral aroma and tropical fruit notes to the taste. 10 more minutes and we turn off the heat.
Now that the wort is done we will cool it as rapidly as possible (this locks in flavor) and move it to the fermenter. Once in the fermenter we need to add water until we have 5 gallons total and pitch the yeast. “Pitching” the yeast basically just means adding the yeast. Most large breweries will do what is called a yeast starter. The yeast starter is just a nice warm moist home for the yeast with plenty of sugar to get them multiplying. This way breweries can test the viability of the yeast. I’m not a sissy like those big brewery guys and I throw my yeast right on top of the wort, because guess what, the wort is a perfect place for the yeast to live and multiply.
Now we throw the fermenter in the closet with an airlock so co2 can escape and not blow up my bucket, and let the yeast go to work turning our wort into beer. The fermentation will be done in about two weeks. But there is one more step since this is going to be an IPA. You may notice I never added the 2 oz of galaxy hops from the ingredient list. That is because we are going to “dry hop” the beer with them. I’ll post more on this in 2 weeks when I dry hop.