A mixture of wheat, barley, and hops give off a warm beer-smelling scent as they boil, that same scent fills my kitchen. The final large pot of wort bubbles and brews on the stovetop, this golden brown liquid in two-weeks time will become a flavorful bruxelles blonde brew.
However the countertop cries for attention as pots, bowls, spoons, and grain that didn’t quite make the cut are littered across it. What they didn’t tell you on the box is that this home brewing process could take over five hours and that you might have to call in an extra helping hand for backup.
Seriously, try pouring an over five gallon pot of boiling wort through a strainer filled over the brim with mash (Yes, I used a standard kitchen strainer. No, it was not large enough.) into another pot. It quickly became nice to have someone else there to rotate pouring and using the spoon to prevent the mash from falling into the pot below.
Needless to say I was not one hundred percent prepared for the process this turned out to be. Then again this was my first home brew and from it I’ve gathered notes that I will without a doubt use for my next home brewing adventure.
Despite the mess that unfolded in my kitchen, the process proved to be rather successful and I’ve ended up with a gallon of beer fermenting in a jug on my bookshelf. Not bad.
It being the first time I’ve brewed beer, I decided on purchasing a beer making kit which had most of the supplies that I needed: One gallon jug, sanitizer packet, airlock, racking cane, screw cap stopper, tubing, tube clamp, lab thermometer, and the ingredient mix. Other things needed but that weren’t included in this specific kit were a funnel, strainer, preferably two stock pots, and empty bottles when it comes time for bottling.
The name of the kit I chose was the Bruxelles Blonde Beer Making Kit from Brooklyn Brew Shop. The plus side of this kit which is worth mentioning is that once you order it the first time you can reuse all the materials and just order the ingredients for your next brew.
To start off this process I began by sanitizing everything. This is one of the most important parts because lack of sanitizing can lead to an unhealthy environment for your yeast to ferment, which will kill them and ruin your beer. So if some of your equipment has been hanging out waiting to be used, sanitize it again before using it.
Following the sanitizing of all the equipment, I heated two quarts of water to 160 degrees F. Once it reached that temperature I added the grain to the pot and let it cook for an hour. This mixture is called the mash.
An hour later I heated four quarts of water in another pot to 170 degrees F while I also set up the strainer over another pot.(It is definitely useful to have multiple large pots). I slowly poured the pot with the grain into the strainer, letting it catch the grain while collecting the liquid that came through (the wort). Once all the grain was in the strainer I poured the pot with the 170 degree water over the grain (the mash) with the result of about five quarts of wort after circulating the wort through the grain once. This mixture is called the sparge. Things I had to do but was not prepared for: due to the normal sized strainer some of the grain spilled over into the wort. When sending the wort through the grain again I had to pour very slowly while using a spoon to hold the mound of grain in the strainer. This is where a helping hand came in handy, recruit any family members, significant others, or friends if possible. Or just get a bigger pot and strainer.
Finally it came time for the boil. Now all that is in the pot is the wort, which I brought to a boil. Once it boiled I added one third of my hops and stirred. 30 minutes into the boil I added another third of the hops. At 45 minutes I added the remainder of the hops. Once the boil reached an hour it was complete, leaving me with a little less than a gallon of wort due to evaporation.
Before it can be poured into the gallon to ferment it has to cool down to 70 degrees F. If possible, place the pot of wort in an ice bath to quicken the process. As soon as it’s cooled it’s finally time to pour!
I put the funnel into the jug and the strainer over it to catch any remaining grains in the wort. Once it was all poured out, my wort came to a little below the gallon line so I added water to bring it up to a full gallon. Once it was at the gallon I added the yeast and shook the jug to activate it.
By then it was time to find a place for the jug to begin fermenting. I placed it on the counter and attached the screw tip stopper, then slid in the rubber tubing one inch into liquid. The other end of the tubing is placed in a small bowl of sanitizer. It stayed like this for two to three days as the carbon dioxide escape, which causes bubbling in the sanitizer.
Once the bubbling stopped in those next few days, I removed the tubing and reassembled the sanitized airlock (I had it set aside in a tupper ware container filled with sanitizer until I was ready to use it). I filled the airlock up to the line with sanitizer then placed it in the hole of the stopper on top of the jug for it all to finish fermenting.
Now comes the easiest, or for some the hardest, part: waiting. The beer sits fermenting for two weeks before it can be bottled. I am finishing this post as I am finishing waiting for my beer. Luckily, in about a day it will be time to bottle my beer, which should be an adventure in itself. That’s a post for another day, for now I wait as I collect the last of the empty bottles I will need to bottle up this gallon jug of bruxelles blonde ale.
Have your own successful, interesting tasting, or unsuccessful brewing experiences yourself? Share in the comments below with your stories, tips and tricks!