During the holidays, I decided to review my brewing log and was surprised to learn that I hadn’t brewed a batch of beer in 18 months. I’m sure that’s mostly due to the previous batch tasting like turpentine (but good turpentine). That batch was experimental, where I pushed the honey content upward to increase the fermentable sugars, which bumps the final alcohol level. I also went crazy with the hops, certain that more was better. The result was horrible, unless you needed something to remove rust. Those bottles lingered in the basement, forgotten, until they were discovered while cleaning. The bottles were emptied into the basement sink before Christmas. So much for experimentation.
Recalling the better batches I made before getting “creative”, I decided to pick up a box of ingredients from Cap ‘n Cork in Macomb, MI. It was time to get back to basics, so I selected a box of American Brown Ale ingredients. On December 27, with the snow finally blowing sideways in Alden, I brewed a 5 gallon batch.
In the world of home brewing, I’m an amateur. The purist brewers are “all-grain brewers”, using only a boat load of malted barley grains, hops and water (and lots of equipment and time) to brew their beer. I’m in the minor leagues, an “extract brewer”, getting my malt from a can or a bag. To improve flavor and complexity, a batch of specially mixed malted barley grains are included for “steeping”, looking like a 5 pound tea bag.
The brew boiled on the stove for 60 minutes, with hops added at four precise points during that time to get the right amount of bittering and flavoring. That hour of boiling fills the house with a sweet, nutty scent.
The brew is fermenting now, so during the next 2 weeks the yeast will convert the sugars to alcohol. After that, the beer is bottled and is ready for drinking a few weeks later. This should yield 2 cases of yummy ale.