Friday, September 25, 2015

Adventures in Beer Making

So I was at work the other day and I overheard that the first keg has officially been tapped and Oktoberfest is in full swing over in Munich, Germany...needless to say I am very jealous.

In order to uplift my mundane non-festive Houston life, I thought I would finally share our first experience in beer making; the good, the bad, the messy.

It all started about a year ago when a good friend of ours decided to give us his beer making kit. I had never even considered making beer before, I made it once in culinary school and I remember it being quite the involved process - not something I necessarily I wanted to take on in our small apartment kitchen but I was willing to give it a try!

We purchased our Oktoberfest Home Brew Kit, Bottles, and capper from The labels I custom designed at Grogtag we decided on the name "The Drunken Dwarf" mainly because it just sounded festive and fun.

What You'll Need:

-Beer brewing kit which includes: malt, grains, hops, yeast steeping bag, and sometimes they include bottle caps.
-Purified filtered water (don't be like us and use your tiny Brita filter, actually plan ahead and buy some gallons of water)
-Thermometer (brewing is VERY temperature controlled - too hot and you've killed the yeast)
-Boiling pot
-Measuring cups
-Fermenter aka big plastic tubs
-Racking cane
-Bottle filler
-Bottling bucket
-Hydrometer (recommended)
-Fine mesh strainer (optional)
-Airlock - weird device that goes on top of the fermenter and allows air to escape without contaminating the beer.

I know it seems like a lot of stuff to buy but the good thing is you can reuse the more expensive equipment and just buy brew kits for the next go-round.

Make sure you maintain the water temp at 155 degrees F, DO NOT let it break 160! Because the pan is so massive, it took it a while to heat up, we had ours on medium for a good 20 minutes.

Here are some other things to keep in mind during your brewing adventure:

-Make sure everything is sanitized, and when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. Bottles, pots, buckets, spoons, measuring cups - just the smallest bit of contamination can affect the quality of the brew.
-USE FILTERED WATER, don't be lazy and use know who you are.
-Even if the directions say you don't need to stain it, use your judgement. Oktoberfest is known to have some sediment, but if we didn't strain ours it would have been undrinkable.
-Make sure you have enough room, we literally had to use every square inch of our kitchen so plan ahead.
-Once you create your brew, treat it like a delicate newborn - don't shake it or disturb it too much when transporting it to the fermenter.
-When fermenting keep your beer in a cool place away from sunlight.
-Be patient and have fun! It was a semi-stressful experience but if you take the time and do it right it's a super rewarding experience!

Behold it's frothy goodness!
This was our last bottle and was a bit more cloudy then the rest - I am guessing it was from the bottom of the barrel


-From the time you place it in the fermenting bucket, you have to wait about two weeks, during this time you should see bubbles appearing in the airlock - this means that the yeast is activating (yay!).
-After the two week fermentation process you have to carefully add in the priming sugar, this will carbonate the beer.
-Next you have the task of filling each bottle and capping it - make sure not to fill it too full or the carbonation will burst the bottles. Using the bottle filler, fill each bottle leaving about two inches from the top.
-Once you bottled your brew you know have a month of fermentation before you can bask in the glory of your brewski.

The end result was 50 12oz. bottles of smooth, full-bodied "Oktoberfest." The best part was sharing it with our friends and family and seeing their reactions (all good by the way). It was a super rewarding experience and we will definitely be experimenting with more brews soon.

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