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Day 65 Busy Day! Bottling & Brewing!

This morning, I started the day by bottling my nut brown ale. This was my first 5 gallon batch…good thing I bought bottles Saturday.

Some of the nut brown ale.

Some of the nut brown ale.

Set up for bottling.

Set up for bottling.

I got about 2 cases of 120z bottles, I racked to a second bottling bucket and left a lot of sludge behind.

5 gallon batch worth of sludge.

5 gallon batch worth of sludge.

Unfortunately, the spigot I bought didn’t have a nut with it and the one I put on was close, but must have not been quite right…it started leaking. OH NO!!! I stuck a (clean) arm into the beer and re-tightened the nut. I’m hoping that wasn’t a fatal mistake for this batch!  Otherwise, it went okay. I filled and my son capped. The FG was 1.008, so the ABV is 5.78% (approximately).

After lunch and gathering some more equipment and supplies, It was on to brewing! This is the first time that I have brewed outside. I borrowed a brother in-law’s turkey fryer set-up…powerful propane burner and a big S/S stock pot.

Turkey fryer for making beer.

Turkey fryer for making beer.

I sanitized all my utensils and went to work. I used 2 gallons of water for the grain bag steep. Then I set up another 2 gallons for a sparge-like set-up. I know there isn’t a requirement to do this in extract recipes, but I figured it couldn’t hurt my efficiency and I just wanted to try it.

Make-shift, unnecessary sparge set-up...but kind of cool!

Make-shift, unnecessary sparge set-up…but kind of cool!

Topped off water to 6 gallons with a 1/2 t. gypsum. The spent grain feeds my garden and the big burner brings the boil. Off the heat, I add the extract. Returned to boil and add the hops…adjust burner for a good 60 minute boil. Stirred frequently.

Chillin' and brewin'

Chillin’ and brewin’

I used a large plastic bin, filled with water and ice to chill the wort down to 90F.

Strangely enough, Bavarian Weizen Yeast for a Bavarian style hefeweisen

Strangely enough, Bavarian Weizen Yeast for a Bavarian style hefeweisen

I brought the wort inside and topped it off to 5-1/2 gallons and got the temperature down to 75F (Okay, I *may* have jumped the gun a little and pitched the yeast at around 80F. The top-off water was supposed to lower the temp from 90F to 70/75F, but I didn’t need much at all to get to 5-1/2 gallons. Iced the bucket in the sink, but was taking forever!) The OG was 1.040…so I added a 1/4 c. corn sugar with equal part  hot water stirred in. OG bumped to 1.042…close enough. Pitched the yeast, stirred, sealed and aerated. I set up the blow off and we’re off and running! The chilling part is still my biggest challenge.

Blow-off set-up...ready to roll!

Blow-off set-up…ready to roll!

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Day 61 Nut Brown Ale Chugging in Primary

The nut brown ale is going to town! The blow off is working great. I don’t see anything in the tube, so I may not have needed it; however, the bubbling is less than a second apart…so, didn’t hurt. This is my first experience with Nottingham dry yeast…seems to be effective!

On the cider and melomel fronts…nothing much to report.  Added oak last night to the Pineapple Tinker. Shouldn’t have to do anything there again for a few days. The Murray’s cider is still bubbling at about a minute intervals. It’s not strong action and never has been, but keeps going. I should have rehydrated the yeast, I guess. Some is clinging in the neck of the carboy. I think I used plenty of yeast and the OG was 1.050, so I don’t think adding sugar or other fermentables would have boosted anything but the alcohol, in the long run. Again, I was going for a simple as possible to see how easy it could possibly be. Rehydrating the yeast would still be simple, but I don’t know if that would speed the process up overall…other than the initial start of the fermentation. Anyway I’m going to just let it go a few more days. I want to get it off the lees, but I don’t want to jump the gun either.

I didn’t get the wiesse beer brewed today. Brewing two days in a row?  That’s just crazy! Maybe tomorrow…just had a nagging headache today. Got some other things done off the “to do” list, though. I should be able to brew within the next couple of days.

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Welcome Beginners!!! Cider Fermenting and Home Beer Brewing from Day One!

My first beer...a success!

My first beer…a success!

Welcome! My name is Matt and I am a beginner at home brewing beer and fermenting cider. I have been keeping a daily journal of my experiences that I hope will be helpful to other beginners. I am currently about 2 months in as I write this. I began on October 28th, 2013 with crabapple cider. I have crabapple trees on some property that is a common area shared with neighbors. Nobody else uses them…they are treated as ornamental. I started making apple jelly and apple butter out of them last year. I did the same this year and decided to try making alcoholic crabapple cider. It has been a real challenge! Since I had the equipment, I decided to try beer as well. Both are exercises in patience, but are fairly simple.

I encourage you to read through my journal and note where I had questions and small mishaps. These may answer many of your questions and help you avoid some mistakes of your own. I began numbering my entries with “Day 1” and went from there. I did not write an entry on days where I did not have to do anything related to fermenting or brewing, so there are less entries than there are actual elapsed days.  I still consider myself to be a rank amateur, but I’m more confident now and I continue to learn, experiment and pursue advice. I strongly suggest doing some reading on a home brew website as well. There are many out there. I recommend http://www.homebrewtalk.com . It  covers from beginners to seasoned pros and everything in between. Find a local home brew supply store, if you have one and talk to the people there. Eventually, you may want to see if you have a local club to join where like-minded folks  get together and exchange ideas and maybe sample each other’s brews.

The main thing to do is get started! Buy a beginner’s start-up kit and just do it!

Constructive comments, advice and questions are always welcome.

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Day 38 Airlock Slowing on Dry Stout (and tasting some stuff!)

8:30 am   The airlock on my Dry Stout batch is slowing to about a bubble every 10 seconds. Getting there! Another 2 or three days and it should be ready to rack to bottle. I’m debating racking to carboys first for clarity. I probably will…let it sit for a few hours and then add priming sugar to a clean bottling bucket and rack on top of that and bottle the stout. I’m thinking Christmas is too early to drink this one…New Year’s Eve is going to be a little early too. I think sampling will begin in mid January.

2:00 pm   I checked intervals between airlock bubbles on the stout in primary fermentation and both times I counted exactly 37. Odd number to come up with, but there ya go. Note: Everything I read says that airlock bubbles are not an indication of fermentation and that the only way to truly tell your beer has finished fermenting is to check the specific gravity. If it hasn’t changed in two days, then it’s ready. Personally, I can’t help but see the airlock bubbles as a pretty good indicator. I really don’t want to expose my brew to open air any more than necessary. If the SG is in expected target range once bubbles have subsided for a couple days, I feel pretty confident.

3:30 pm   Opened the flip top test bottle of cider batch #4. I thought I heard a little release when I popped the top, but I could not detect any carbonation in the small sample that I poured. The sweetness and flavor are very nice, though. I guess I can let it go for awhile before I check it again.

8:30 pm   Well, it IS Friday night, so I decided to pop a top on a Fawlty Brown Ale. It has had another week in the bottle since I last tried one. It was in a back room, where the temperature was in the upper 60’s and the bottle felt cool, so I went ahead and opened it without additional refrigeration. The carbonation has definitely increased and I think the beer is quite good. More time won’t hurt, but it’s good.

Fawlty Brown Ale...carbonation is better this week.

Fawlty Brown Ale…carbonation is better this week

11:30 pm   Alright, the kids are at sleepovers and I shouldn’t have to go anywhere; so, I pulled out a bottle of Watson’s Cyser. (If I had used the right terminology on the label, it would have been “Watson’s Cider”…say it again…I know; funny, right?)

Watson's Cyser (Actually, a sparkling cider). A bit cloudy, too much lees in the bottle.

Watson’s Cyser (Actually, a sparkling cider). A bit cloudy, too much lees in the bottle.

This cider has actually got positives and negatives. The positives are that it retains some sweetness and some crabapple character and the carbonation is about where I like it. The negatives are that I left a little too much sediment in the bottling. I don’t mind the lack of crystal clarity, but the lees are allowing a bit of a yeasty flavor. IMAG2000Getting it just right is trickier than I thought! I need to rack longer for clarity, but not ferment the sugar all the way out and completely lose the yeast; otherwise, it won’t carb. The experiments are interesting, but I’m glad they aren’t huge batches!

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Day 33 Thanksgiving! Another Fawlty Brown Ale and Too Much Food!

IMAG1926

Sometime afternoon: I cracked open another Fawlty Brown Ale and relaxed before the cooking chores to come. This one was slightly better than the one last night, as far as carbonation, if that’s possible, but it seemed to dissipate by the last couple of swallows.  My Mother In-Law tasted it and gave it a thumbs up. Maybe a few more will be opened this evening. IMAG1929

Whatever is left will go home…I’m thinking of leaving a few in the refrigerator and a few out at room temp, to see if they improve with a bit more time. Much cooking ensued next. IMAG1930A turkey was cooked, a broccoli casserole was prepared, plain broccoli was prepped, giblets were turned into stock and a roux was created for gravy. Whew! Soon, it will be time to carve the 18 lb bird and make the gravy. Then, we must eat, drink and be merry! Happy Thanksgiving!

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Day 32 Fawlty Brown Ale…Not Bad

I decided to go ahead and chill the Fawlty Brown Ale for tomorrow and try one tonight. Since we have everyone here for Thanksgiving now and no one would share the bottle with me, I won’t be surprised if most of the 10 bottles I have left come home with me.

Opening Fawlty Brown Ale for a taste before Thanksgiving.

Opening Fawlty Brown Ale for a taste before Thanksgiving.

As for the beer itself, it tasted about the same as the bottle I opened several days ago. The color and flavor are good, nice bitterness, drinkable; however, the carbonation level is a bit low.

Not bad.

Not bad.

Still, pleased with my first attempt at beer and if nobody else drinks any, most of these can spend some more time in the bottle…but they’ve been refrigerated now. Not sure if I should take them out now?

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Day 30 At the Beach for Thanksgiving

After I racked my Cider batch #4 to carboys and a couple of 22 oz bottles for holding while I go to the family Thanksgiving gathering at the beach, no brew related activities for a couple of days.

At the beach...birds perched and feeding on sea oats.

At the beach…birds perched and feeding on sea oats.

I did bring my 11 bottles of Fawlty Brown Ale for Thanksgiving. It is currently at room temperature, hopefully benefiting from bottle conditioning as long as possible. I also brought my 2 brown 12 oz test bottles of cider batch#2 that I bottled on…was it 11/13/13? Anyway, stuck those in the refrigerator today and popped one tonight.

Cider batch #2 test bottle

Cider batch #2 test bottle

While drinkable, it was a little less carbonated than I would prefer. It is also pretty dry, but the apples are present in the aroma. Not bad.

A little under carbonated and dry, but passable!

A little under carbonated and dry, but passable!

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