Backyard Brewing – Brew Day

We may have a mighty fine selection of local and speciality beer in our fair city, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a go at brewing our own frothy masterpiece….
This week I’m brewing up a storm to bring you my tips on how to craft the perfect batch of ale. If my first post whet your appetite, this second helping will show you that creating your own home brew is surprisingly simple with the right equipment.
My ingredients have arrived from the Brew UK store and I’m ready to start my fourth foray into home brewing. I’d recommend putting a weekend aside and starting bright and early when lovingly crafting your batch. Good beer brewing takes a little bit of love and attention after all! You will need to sterilise all the equipment you use on brew day and make sure you wash thoroughly after to stop cleaning fluid tainting the flavour of your brew. It’s also an idea to sort out a few hours of entertainment to keep you going. I’d suggest Stones Throw Records and Bill Brewster’s DJ History podcasts.
I decided to brew the extract version of the Honey Porter first instead of the all grain method pack as I thought it would be a good idea to start with something simpler (as I hadn’t brewed for a few months). Fancy trying your hand at Obama’s White House recipe? The good people at Brew UK have handily put together all the malts and hops you need to have a good attempt at brewing a matching presidential beer.
First up I heated six litres of water in a large pan to 65-70 degrees centigrade and then added the grain pack. It’s a good idea to buy some muslin and place the grains in and tie like a big teabag (not too tight) for easy removal.  I left this to infuse for 30 minutes (with the pan lid on) until the mix turned a rich chocolate brown. The malts in the pack were Munich, chocolate, crystal and black variants. I then removed the grain teabag and put to one side. Remember you need to cover the liquid at all times in order to minimise unwanted bacteria that will spoil the flavour.
Next I added the malt extract into the liquid (this is now known as the wort) and brought to the boil for 15mins; I then added the first hop pack and boiled for a further 15 minutes. I then added the second hop pack – both are for the bittering flavour components of the beer and boiled for 30 minutes. The hop packs consisted of Hallertauer and Golding’s varieties. In the last 5 minutes I added roughly 500g of good quality clear honey. I turned off the heat and allowed the liquid to cool to 80 degrees centigrade and finally added the third hop pack for the aroma component and allowed to steep for 30 minutes (with the pan lid on again, remember keep those bad bacteria out!).

I filled the fermenting bin up with 8 litres of cold water and strained the cooled boiled wort into the water, this can be difficult so grab a fellow beer lover to help. Try to do this as close to the liquid in the bin as possible to avoid excess air getting into the mix. I then topped up the fermenting bin to 19 litres, pouring the remaining water through a strainer to extract maximum flavour from the hops. The yeast pack I received required rehydrating which basically means mixing up with warm, sterilised water. When the wort had cooled to between 16-24 degrees centigrade I added the re-hydrated yeast. Throughout it’s best to use a thermometer to check the necessary temperature for each step.
You’ll then need to take an original gravity reading which is where I used my hydrometer and recorded my starting gravity. Then put on the lid and airlock (fill halfway with pre-cooled sterilised water). I found a suitable area in the kitchen with a temperature of around 18-22 degree centigrade, which was covered and out of the way of light. Currently it’s day eight and I can still hear the hiss of carbon dioxide escaping through the airlock. It’ll be another 2-3 days at least for the brew to have fully fermented and ready for me to rack off into bottles.  
As I’m not yet at this stage I’ll run down a quick guide to the racking. I find it much easier to use a racking bucket as I like to use bottles as my secondary fermenting vessel:

Make a priming syrup by mixing sterile water and sugar; bring to a boil for five minutes. Pour the mixture into your empty bottling bucket. This will mean the remaining yeast in the wort will consume this sugar and start a small refermentation in each bottle. This gives natural bubbles to your beer as carbon dioxide produced remains dissolved in the beer and makes it ‘bottle conditioned’. Depending how much wort you have made I would do a quick search on the internet to find the relevant mix/amount of sugar required. The Brew UK site gives a good guide and also mentions barrel options if you decide to go for that instead.

Siphon the beer from the fermenter into the racking bucket. This is where you’ll use your racking cane and again make sure you’ve pre-sterilised all your equipment and rinsed thoroughly. It helps to lift the fermenting bin onto a higher work surface to enable gravity to do its part of the job.

Use a long spoon to mix and distribute priming sugar evenly throughout the beer.

Fill up your bottles via the racking bucket’s dispenser.

Crown all the bottles with your bottler capper (again sterilise the crowns).

Place bottles in box with lid and store at room temperature.

Wait roughly 2 weeks for your beer to clear before sampling your first beer! When you pour, leave the yeast sediment behind in the bottle.

For troubleshooting, hints and tips the ‘Brew Your Own’ site is really useful and I’d advise having a read before your first brew.
If you fancy having a go at brewing the previous winner of Thornbridge and Nicholson’s pubs ‘Great British Home Brew’ competition you can purchase either the extract version or the all grain pack from Brew UK.
Hopefully in 2 weeks I’ll have my own Honey Porter ready to drink, just in time for Christmas. I thought of calling it ‘The Everly Exposed Honey Porter’ as a bit of a nod to Sheffield local legends The Everly Pregnant Brothers and their upcoming Christmas Hoedown.  I’m open to suggestions for names, so drop me a line…

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