First Brew – First Post

After my sister and brother-in-law took me to several breweries in Fort Collins, Colorado (including excellent tours of New Belgium and Odell Brewing), I felt inspired to pursue a long-standing interest in brewing.

So I grabbed hold of my copy of The Complete Joy of Homebrewing (thank you, Johnnie Simpson, for the great birthday gift) and picked up some equipment at Brooklyn Homebrew. I also picked up their English brown ale partial mash kit.

The equipment I acquired included:

  • 16 quart stainless steel stockpot
  • 6 gallon Better Bottle (a plastic carboy)
  • 6.5 gallon bottling bucket with spigot
  • 8″ funnel with screen
  • Hydrometer, sampling tube, and beer thief
  • A regular and an adhesive thermometer
  • Two intermediate drilled silicone stoppers
  • Solid rubber stopper
  • Several feet of 3/8″ ID, 1/2″ ID, and 5/8″ ID vinyl tubing
  • Two three-piece airlocks
  • Bottle brush
  • IO-Star sanitizer (iodophor)
  • Bottle caps
  • Auto-siphon and bottle filler

I additionally made use of one of my growlers as a receptacle for the blow-off assembly. Speaking of blow-off assemblies, the reason for the extra drilled stopper and airlock was because I was paranoid about having to deal with blow-off. While unpacking my gear, I was overcome with zeal and tried fitting my 1/2″ tubing over the stalk of my airlock to fashion a blow-off assembly. I promptly found that I had cracked the outer shell of the airlock and that the tubing could not be removed from the stalk. This necessitated buying a second airlock. However, I subsequently read about instances of hefeweizens and high gravity beers clogging 1/2″ blow-off tubes and decided my solution was inadequate. It was at this point that I bought a second drilled stopper and the 5/8″ tubing. The tubing fits over the nipple of the stopper, though not as snugly as I had hoped, so I bonded the two with food-safe silicone glue.

Less than a week before brew day was to arrive, I picked up my English brown ale kit and had the brew shop mill my malts. The ingredients in the kit were:

  • 1 lb Maris Otter
  • 1 lb crystal 120 malt
  • 8 oz brown malt
  • 8 oz flaked corn
  • 2 oz Carafa Special II malt
  • 3.3 lbs extra light liquid malt extract (LME)
  • 1 lb extra light dry malt extract (DME)
  • 1 oz Kent Goldings hops
  • Wyeast 1968 London ESB yeast smack pack (100 billion cells)
  • Whirlfloc (a clarifying aid)

Searching the internet, it seems that Carafa Special contributes some mild flavors, but is probably predominantly present for lending dark coloring. Likewise the crystal malt will lend reddish coloring that will bring the color of the beer to the deep copper brown hue. The crystal malt also lends caramel flavor to the beer. The brown malt has assertive flavors of chocolate and roast coffee and adds color to the beer. Maris Otter is a classic English cask ale malt with a nutty flavor.

The fact is that I don’t totally understand the recipe; that’s why I bought a kit in the first place. The malts smelled delicious to me, though everyone else I had take a whiff was a little less excited and said it just smelled strongly of a cereal graininess. The next post will cover brew day and the lessons I learned during my first brewing experience.

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