Brew Day, been and gone!

Yesterday, I finally brewed my first craft ale…ok, homebrew. All from scratch, no tin of malt extract (called a kit), just the grain, hops, yeast and water. In a months time, I should have a Single Malt and Single Hop Pale Ale. It should be quite light and have a citrusy hoppy taste from the cascade hops. I say ‘should’ because so many things can still go wrong and I could still end up with something mush less palatable than a Pale Ale! In fact, some of the things could have already have gone wrong!

The journey to this point has been interesting, with many ups and downs. Certainly, not plain sailing. However, with persistence and patience (and a good dose of help from others along the way) I am now firmly on the next stage of my journey! A paralell journey is about to start and I’ll blog about that tomorrow. So far this journey has involved an emotionally painful move, seriously precarious finances and beer making kit in the wrong country. Up-to this point I have been laying the foundations for this next stage and I wouldn’t have got this far without a substantial amount of help and kindness from others. Of course I have needed reserves of patience and persistance, and I cannot claim to have never thought that this would never happen. Anyway, those dark days are for another blog. This one is primarily about my first brew day! Well…proper brew day, I dabbled in making beer as a student in the early 1990s and between you and me, it was not that great.

Below I go into the details of my brew day yesterday, so if homebrew and beer put you to sleep, now is the time to start reading another blog.

OK, Brew Day shenanighans! The whole thing took longer than I expected, but on the whole it went pretty smoothly. I ended up with 5 litres of beer at an Original Gravity within the range I was aiming for (1.044). My plan of hotter than recommended mash (infusion/grain steeping) temperature didn’t go quite as well as I had hoped, but it ended up being more like the temperature I was supposed to be mashing at, so no great deal. I suspect that my ale may taste a little thin, but Pale Ales are supposed to be less Malty anyway, so can’t complain there.

The only perplexing thing was the mash temperature difference in the grain bed and the wort underneath. The wort underneath was well above 80 and the grain bed was at 64! I only found out that the wort was almost boiling when I took the grain out! Hopefully, it won’t have a terrible effect.

I think this might be due to my double layer of metal mesh and grain bag between the wort and the grain. Next time, I might try just the metal mesh insert without the bag. It is a pretty fine mesh, so I think it might be alright. Or, I could ditch the mesh insert and just use the bag. Maybe, I’ll try both with my remaining ingredients / bashes at this recipe.

I attempted a mash-out, by bringing the grain bed upto 75 degrees. Tried and tried, but couldn’t get it there and this is probably why my wort was almost boiling underneath it! I’m hoping it hasn’t done any harm.

The boil went well and didn’t foam up massively at ‘hot break’ (when the wort first reaches boiling point), so I managed to avoid a sticky mess all over the hob! My faux pas during the boil was to mis-read the instructions regarding the hops. I added First Wort Hops at the boil and then added some more 15 minutes in. It should have been 15 mins from the end! Oops. I added some at flameout (when you turn the heat off) and left the hops bags in for the cooling down stage (when you try to cool the wort from boiling to 20 degrees as fast as you can). Not very fast in my case…Again, not sure if leaving the hop bags in was a good idea…

The cooling took forever. Any savings with beer has probably been spent on replacing the water in the bath! Next time, I will have more ice ready and really chill the water first.

I transferred the wort into my fermenter pretty smoothly and swished it around a bit. Ideally, I would have done this for longer, but I was under time pressure. I had re-hydrated my yeast during the mash time ‘dewn’t yew know’ and added it when the wort was about 24 degrees. This is supposed to be too warm, but the packet said 20-30 degrees), so I just thought ‘what the heck’. We had to go out for a few hours, so I just couldn’t wait any longer. By the time we got back the wort with yeast in, was down to 18 degrees. Job done…I hope

I made my feremnter a little insulating jacket (see the picture above) to stop the worst of fluctuating temperatures and it is now hiding under our dining table, out of harms way. I’ll have to watch the temperature though, as when the yeast get going (and hopefully they will…) they could add a whopping 5 degrees to the temperature in the fermenter. I’ll then have to take off the jacket or risk stressing the yeast and having some nasty flavours in my ale.

To finish my day I opened the box of hop rhizomes I had been sent by a kind man in Kanagawa-ken. More on this paralell adventure tomorrow.

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