Reflections on brew day

Brew day has been and gone and in my porch proudly sits a fermenting bin full of lovely mahogany-brown wort bubbling away under a pancake-like layer of yeasty froth.

It remains to be seen how it turns out, but I’m relatively pleased with the process so far – although there are a few stages where I know mistakes were made and which I will improve upon next time.

The wort itself tastes better than I was expecting for my first effort. It  is very sweet and although there are malty notes there, the citrusy hops cut through and lift it away from being too sickly. Looking forward to seeing how it develops once the yeast has gone to work.

Colour-wise, it’s a lot darker than I was expecting. I was thinking it would take on some of the more warm, amber hues of the pallette, like a Theakstons or an IPA, but instead, it’s a deep chestnut colour, similar to a Bishop’s Finger. It may lighten during the fermentation phase, we’ll have to wait and see.

In terms of the day itself, there were a few highlights and a few takeaways which I’ll use to refine my technique for next time.

The aroma hit from the moment when the hops hit the boil was a sensory experience in its purest form. That the citrusy-sweet hoppy smell still lingers in the kitchen is an added bonus.

The main worries I have are as follows:

1) The Sparge – don’t think I was as diligent with this as maybe I could have been. The liquor was running almost clear by the end, but it only took about 15 minutes to achieve this, not the 30-45 stipulated in the recipe, so I’m thinking maybe I didn’t manage to extract every last drop of fermentable goodness from the spent grain.

2) The Temperature – my thermometer was inadequate for the job I needed it to do and with it being Easter Sunday, there was nowhere open where I could purchase one that was up to the job. As such, I relied on guesstimates rather than actuals to judge temperature at some of the stages. Not ideal and hoping I don’t pay the price later on.

3) The Chill – even after packing my fermenting bin in an ice bath, it took an age to cool the wort down to a temperature at which it could receive the yeast. It was covered at all times, but I’m more than a little concerned about the brew picking up an airborne infection and ending up tasting like roadkill. I’m going to diy an immersion chiller ready for next time.

4) The Pitch – The yeast went in OK and has developed a nice merangue-like layer on the top of my brew. Although there is some pressure in the lidded bin, it’s not as puffed up with CO2 as I’d have expected, although I have no prior experience to compare it with so, again, there may be a touch of paranoia on my part. Also, I didn’t add in any of the yeast nutrient I purchased though, and think it may be too late to do so now.

So, there you have it. An enjoyable day and I’m looking forward both to sampling my brew and to my next brew day.

To all you seasoned home brewers out there, are any of my perceived mistakes fatal and what should I be looking out for during the fermentation stage.

All advice gratefully received.

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The Big Chill

ImageSo, thanks to the East Bank Holidays, I’ve got four whole days ahead to get my first batch of homebrew on, but after doing some reading and research in preparation for the big day, there is one piece of kit I’ve overlooked, which may deliver a fatal blow to my brew if I don’t sort it.

I’ve not got a wort chiller. Several books, blogs and webposts mention the need to coll the wort as quickly as possible using a chiller, before pitching the yeast, so I’m kinda thinking it’s a big deal.

If time was not an issue, I’d have a bash at making my own, because it sounds like the geeky fun sort of project I am into, but I want to get brewing in the morning.

I’m off on a shopping raid this lunchtime to pick up a final couple of bits of kit and my ingredients for brew day tomorrow, so I’m thinking I should pick one up.

So, I’m making a plea to any seasoned brewers out for some simple advice: “To chill or not to chill, that is the question?”

Any help, guidance or insight appreciated. I follow back and link to anyone who helps me out.

Cheers

Jon

Welcome, weary travellers

Welcome to my new blog and thanks for stopping by.

My name is Jon and I’ve always wanted to try brewing my own beer.

I come from a long line of brewers and beer lovers. My dad enjoys the odd tipple. My granddad – like his brother, Reg – was a true beer aficionado.

My Uncle Reg was a pretty mean homebrewer himself, whilst their father and grandfather brewed commercially, earning a strong reputation for their fine ales in the Black Country, where the family pub was and where my ancestral line begins.

So, I’ve always had the desire to brew my own, but work, life and everything else got in the way.

Until now.

I’m the editor of a business magazine as part of my day job and one of the features we did recently – on microbreweries in the East Midlands – got me thinking, what if…

So, I’ve finally decided to take the leap.¬†Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been amassing most of the equipment I need to mash my first brew and I’m almost at the point where I can get my first boil on to see what happens.

I’ll be using this blog to chart my journey from brewing novice to…who knows?

It may be glorious, it may all go down in flames, but either way, I’ll have fun doing it and I’m looking forward to enjoying the ride.

I hope you do too and look forward to seeing you here again.

Jon