Friday, February 4, 2011
Been Too Busy to Think of Anything Interesting to Post About. So Here is a Brew Post.
I don't know what I have been doing with all my time as of late, but I haven't really been making any interesting forays into the culinary universe on which to train my rapier wit. However, I did manage to find the time to get a quick batch of home brew going. Maybe I will crystalize my whole brewing philosophy into some sort of treatise in the future, but I am feeling crushingly lazy right now. Simply stated, I take a very primitive approach to the brewing of fermented beverages. I think a lot of home brewers make a chemical experiment out of the whole process and make brewing thoroughly unenjoyable.
For thousands of years, brewing was a household project much like baking bread or any other kitchen task. You didn't need a laboratory-esque level of cleanliness, hundreds of dollars of equipment, or exotic ingredients/chemicals. I always encourage people to do a little research into the topic, as the brewing arts are much less intimidating then they might seem after a glance around the internets. Internet brew-guys tend to get a little precious and snobbish about their chosen hobby (as hobbyests of all types tend to do). A resource I find useful is Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers by Stephen Harrod Buhner. The book is full of recipes and has a great chapter about demystifying the process of brewing. Also, it pushes home the point that you can make beer out of just about anything that contains sugar. You don't have to limit your self to hops and barley/wheat malts.
Don't worry too much about the cost either, I am an advocate of small batch brewing to start. Just go buy a gallon jug and an airlock, you don't need to churn out 5 gallons your first time. Hammersmith in Latham will have everything you need.
Anyhow, for my current brew project I am making a medium size batch (3 gallons) of a honey ale. I mashed 5 pounds of pale malt (2 row malted barley) at 150 deg. for 90 minutes. I use one of those big insulated coolers with the spigot, Rubbermaid I think, just make sure it is rated for hot beverages. I jury rigged a mash tun by jamming one of those splatter screen/sieve looking things down into the cooler until it is about 2 inches from the bottom. This keeps the grain from plugging up the spigot.
I boiled the wort with a pound of local wild flower honey for another 90 minutes using Kent Golden hop pellets for both boiling and finishing. I throw in a little Irish Moss at the end for clarity. I don't have a wort chiller, so I just put the covered brew kettle outside (if its cold enough) until the wort is about 60-65 deg. Then the lot goes into my sweet, antique 5 gallon carboy (I scored it for 20 bucks at a garage sale) and I pitched in some Nottingham ale yeast. I am going for a long ferment as in my experience, honey takes a bit longer to ferment completely, maybe 2-3 weeks. I usually skip secondary fermentation, as I don't think it makes a heck of a lot of difference.
I am planning on bottle conditioning and priming with honey too, about 4 ounces of honey should do nicely for 3 gallons. A week or so at room temperature should do for carbonating. I am going to put the bottles in my wine fridge and cellar them at about 40 degrees for a month or two. This will allow the honeyed ale to develop a little more character.
I am pretty confident that this batch is going to turn out well, and I should be full to the gills with delicious honey ale to hale the coming of spring.