Brewin’ Up a Sturm

So I mentioned a LONG time ago that I’d been inspired by the Homebrew Korea blog, and had begun home-brewing beer. The first batch I finished for the end of last semester, and handed out bottles to a bunch of people before leaving for my summer trip.

(And if you have any of my bottles, I’d like ’em back! Those swing-top bottles aren’t cheap, folks!)

My first attempt was a stout which was pretty alright, though not very foamy and not very strong:


It turned out okay, but there was something a little off. Not contaminated off, just, not as good as it could be. I wasn’t sure what the problem was until a few days ago, when I was reading through a fermentables chart in my copy of Charlie Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Home Brewing, wherein I realized what I’d done wrong. The kit I bought from Goodbeer (a Korean homebrew supply shop) provided one tin of syrup with one half-kilo bag of dry malt extract.

This is only enough fermentable to make a “lite” beer, though; to make a “normal” beer you need to use at least a few kilos of fermentable (including the syrup can, mind — so minimum maybe a kilo of dry malt extract) along with the syrup. A lot of people put a mix of sugar and malt extract, but I think it’s better to use pure malt extract.

That explains it — the Stout I made last semester was actually “lite” Stout, because I didn’t put enough fermentables into it. Never heard of such a thing before, but that’s what it was. Ooops. But for all that, it was alright, really. A little higher alcohol content would have been nice, but, it wasn’t awful or embarrassing. (Lots of people said they liked it, actually.) And it helped me get a handle on the routine of sterilizing and sanitizing, so it’s all good.

(And yes, I knew the alcohol content wasn’t high when I used my triple-scale meter thingie hydrometer, but I didn’t know why it registered as it did. Now, of course, I do know…)

It’s too bad I only realized this after racking a batch of Canadian IPA for fermentation:



(Those shots are from about a week ago — I swapped out the hose for an airlock once the foaming settled. And yeah, I did primary ferment in a glass carboy… another thing I wanted to try…)

I’m leery about adding sugar at this point, so I’m just going to dry-hop it (for the aromas) in secondary fermentation, and have a — ahem — “lite” IPA. That’s fine — I’ve got lots of malt extract now, and the Wheat, Barley Wine, and Stout will make up for it in strength. I may even brew the barley wine stronger than the others since, anyway, from what I’ve read it will be sitting relatively longer.

I have a few brewers’ gidgets and gadgets on the way, as well, which will help me with the process. (I’ll post about them as I get them — the main one is a near 2-pipe carboy cap.) I have also finally worked out a way to hook up a wort chiller in my place. (I need a LONG hose to reach from my bathroom sink to the kitchen, since the kitchen sink doesn’t work so well for this purpose.) The chiller will help speed up the process, and give me more control of it as well. I figure I’ll probably be starting three batches once I get back from the conference I’ll be presenting at this weekend.

More on that in a bit, but I will say that so far, this home-brewing hobby is quite fun. I was hoping to get to brewing from whole grains this semester, but I think I’ll probably start on that project next semester instead. Should be fun!

8 thoughts on “Brewin’ Up a Sturm

  1. So when is this latest batch going to be ready? I’ll gladly make the trek out to your place again… unless you want to drop by with a bunch of bottles this time and I’ll cook.

  2. Charles,

    Well, I’m not even sure this batch will turn out, but if it does, I suspect I’d be happy to cart a few bottles out that way for the pleasure of your cooking, and the company too of course.

    And, ha, possible slight change of plans… I may be making a pumpkin beer — ale or pilsner — rather than the barley wine. We’ll see… gonna stop by a brew shop in Missouri if I can…

  3. Back in college, my buddies and I tried to brew up the darkest heaviest stouts, the strongest, hoppiest IPAs. They always came out off. Now a few years later, I gave started brewing again. I’m sticking to more or less basic English styles. ESB and brown ale. No extremes. And every batch has turned out great.

    I have a feeling if you want to do those extremes, you’d better be prepared to leave the extract behind and get into all-grain and also get some serious temperature control on your fermenter.

  4. Matt,

    Yeah, I don’t have any designs on the extremes, for now, but they would be fun as occasional experiments. I’m much more interested in adding flavorings for now — though the limited selection of beer in Korea is such that as long as I’m making something even slightly different, I’m entertaining myself. A nice brown ale, for example, would be a little bit of a novelty.

    That said, I am planning on moving to all-grain next semester, time permitting, and I am interested in some variety, but mostly in a minor way — stuff like, say, making Wheat Beer with some orange peel in the boil for mild flavoring, for example; or a jalapeno beer (if I can get dried japalenos), or a mint chocolate stout. I am interested in experimenting with some odder stuff, in terms of flavoring, but my reason for moving to whole grains is mostly to understand the whole process better.

    But for the most part, I’d be happy just not to have my beer turn out weirdly thinner and lighter than expected.

  5. Hmm… well, this batch should be ready in, say, three weeks of conditioning, from the 17th (when I bottle it). So I’m guessing mid-December.

    Which means, by the way, there’ll be two guests, not one. (Ahem…)

    Alternately, we could meet up in later December (maybe between Xmas and New Year’s, or immediately after New Year’s?) and we could bring more variety. Pumpkin ale? Wheat beer? Maybe that coffee-stout? Sound nice?

  6. Yum yum. Speaking as a dweller in southern California, I have to say that heavy IPAs are highly over-rated. Not that I’ll ever get to taste any of it, but even so I would vote for an oatmeal stout – now that you’ve had the learning experience of making a regular stout.

    1. Tristan,

      Yeah, I tried the IPA-lite and it tastes passable. Stil wish it were a bit heavier, but no matter — the next IPA will be perfect: not heavy, but a bit richer and full-bodied than this will, I think. But this one will be alright as well…

      I also brewed up a nice rich wheat beer tonight. Will post about it soon.

      Would love to make an oatmeal stout, but will have to wait till I’m working with whole grains, I think — never seen a kit for oatmeal stout around here. Should be doable, though… We’ll see. In the meantime, I have a nice oatmeal stout I picked up in Missouri waiting to be tried. Will be giving it a go in December. Sure I’ll love it to death and be hell-bent on brewing some in the spring. (Brewing’s Jan-Feb as I’ll be out of country.)

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