Beer. I love it. And someone who loves me got me the Brooklyn Brew Shop’s Beer Making Kit as well as their Beer Making Book of small batch recipes for Christmas. Last night I made my first beer, their Everyday IPA. The kit comes with the equipment, malt, hops, and yeast needed to make a gallon. It’s the real stuff (not the premade Mr. Beer ingredients).
I love the story of the couple behind the kit making beer in their Brooklyn apartment and turning that into a business (why didn’t I think of this?). The design of the kit, the book, and the website are all well done. As a designer, I appreciate the quality and craft that appear to have gone into their product and service. While their recipe instructions and how to brew video are helpful, I thought I’d share me experience to help the other newbies out there, as I did have a few unanswered questions and difficulties.
It took me an hour or more just to orient myself around the directions and the preparation, which mostly involves sanitizing all the equipment. This does not include the time I spent days earlier reading about the few items I needed to supply (medium pot, funnel, and metal strainer) and buying a new pot.
The kit comes with sanitizer called C-Brite. There are some amazingly scary warnings on that tiny little packet. From my recollection, it said that if it touches your skin or your eyes or your clothes or you even breath the wrong way while handling the sanitizer YOU WILL DIE. This scared me a bit, so I used rubber gloves after asking my girlfriend* to search the Internet for C-Brite related deaths (she didn’t find any). Though in the video above, you will see they don’t use gloves. (*I highly recommend a partner to help decipher instructions, hold pots, and other two-brained, four-handed tasks.)
Also, I didn’t have enough ice that would be needed for the ice bath later in the process. So I had to run to the local shop (fortunately 100 feet from my apartment) to get a bag of ice.
Finally, I could not figure out how it was possible to make beer in just one pot, as the book suggested was possible, or two, which they recommend. My best guess was that it would take at least three pots (I was correct).
After a good hour of doing all this and stressing myself out, I was ready to make some beer!
Here you can see two of the pots I needed. The first for mashing in the malt. The second for the water needed for the sparge.
The mash was supposed to look like oatmeal, and it did. Early success!
For an hour I monitored the temperature to ensure it stayed between 144 and 152 degrees Fahrenheit. As indicated, I did not need to keep the heat on after adding the malt.
The real trouble came during the sparge phase, where I needed to separate the grains from the wort (If you don’t understand these terms, neither did I. But the recipe book is super helpful.). I needed to pour the mash through a strainer to collect the grains. But as the mash was in pot 1, and pot 2 contained water that was trying to reach 170 degrees Fahrenheit, I used a third pot to catch the wort.
I then put the strainer full of grains over pot 1 and poured the wort from pot 3 over the grains. Then I poured the water from pot 2 over the grains. Then I recirculated the wort through the grains as indicated.
In conclusion, I recommend three pots. (Ideally, each of these are 6 to 10 quarts. But I suggest two of them be at least 8 quarts.)
Now I had wort! Yippee! Smelled like a brewery or sour bread. The next step involved boiling and adding the hops. No real trouble there, except I got scared by the warning in the instructions to make sure to keep it at a low boil. As soon as it got to a crazy boil, which took 45 minutes, I turned the heat down. Later, I wondered if this was a mistake, as the video shows crazy boiling.
Anyway hops smell great! These are cascade hops.
After the boil, cooling worked just as instructed: an ice cold bath.
When it cooled, I funneled the liquid into the fermenter and learned that I wanted a larger funnel and a finer strainer. But I had plenty of liquid to fill the fermenter, so it was all good. You can see the sanitizer liquid in the container to the left of the sink. At this point in the process, I needed to sanitize this and that as well as my hands a lot. I ended up overcoming my fears of death and dipping my hands in the sanitizer mixture. And I didn’t die. So that was good. I guess touching the powder will kill you, but after it’s dissolved in water it won’t. Either that or I’m super human.
Here you see my fermenting beer, just after adding the yeast. Nothing exciting happened until the following morning, when whirling and twirling bubbles flew around inside the fermenter like a violent storm. I hope that means it’s working!
All in all, it took me about four hours. I learned a lot about beer in the process. And I’ve likely changed my understanding of beer for life. In two to three days the bubbling will stop, and I’ll remove the tube and cap it. Then I’ll put it in a dark place for 11 days. Then bottle. The wait another two weeks.
Afterwards, I looked up other recipes, suppliers, and kits. I’m glad I got this one. I really dig the one-gallon jug. It makes about 10 beers. That seems like a good amount for me and my San Francisco apartment. I am considering a second kit so I can get two different recipes going and have new beer every two weeks or so instead of every month.
If you are new to this or just interested, I hope this was helpful. If you’re an expert and noticed a glaring fault in my process, please let me know!